There Be Finger Pointing

finger pointing

When SimCity first released, those people who did publish official reviews clearly had reviewed a demo copy.  Eurogamer Sweden published a 100% rating on the 4th, when the servers were taking a pretty large poop and a true play test of the multiplayer portions had not really begun.  A few days after launch, the metacritic score was around 85.  Now it’s 67.  Let’s not even discuss the user score.

I know that most publishers tie a revenue bonus or tier percentage on returns based on the metacritic score.  This can clearly be gamed if the review sample is small, such as what happened with Fallout: New Vegas, where a single % cut off all bonuses for what was arguably one of the best games that year.

Now let it be clear that I like Maxis.   They’ve made some pretty amazing games over the years, one of which I’m pretty sure is still the all-time best selling game (The Sims).  Darkspore, to me, was their first toe step into the multiplayer arena.  Again, the reception for that game was mediocre.  Given that, it’s hard to imagine that it was EA that was pushing the muliplayer aspect of SimCity and that a portion of the blame of what was delivered sits squarely in their lap.

So here we are, 1 week after launch and the game 10 years in the making is most definitely going to cost EA a few million in lost sales, Maxis any possible bonus and likely quite a few people their jobs.  It’s a business after all and one with next to no tolerance for failure.  I do feel bad when people lose their jobs, but at the same time, you can look at SimCity and see nearly everything wrong with games today:

… in one package, that’s Sim City 5. To wit:

– Overpromise
– Underdeliver (bordering on flat out fraud)
– We still buy a lacking product


To the surprise of no one, SimCity launched and then fell flat for many players.  Either failed downloads, failed connections, server queues or just plain old bugs, many people were unable to play the recent installment in the classic series.

While I think the concepts behind the game are pretty cool, I do have reservations on a few items:

  • It requires Origin to play, no matter where you buy it.  I have a dislike for Origin for many reasons, the least of which is their EULA and shoddy customer service.
  • It’s from EA, a company who is charging players for a priority queue to play the game.  Now that’s brass balls folks.
  • The city size is 80-90% smaller than in previous versions.  Hitting 500K population is an achievement.
  • Due to the former, cities must work together in a region to support each other.  Cool concept until one of those cities decides to stop playing and you suddenly lose all your power.
  • You can “finish” your city relatively quickly, in a few hours.  Past Sim games took quite a while to reach a prosperous city.  To me, this is going to hurt the longevity of the game as once you’re at maximum capacity, every corner is filled and you know a change in direction (say from Power to Knowledge) would destroy your region, why bother?
  • Always on DRM.  If Diablo 3 taught me anything, it’s that always on DRM for a single player game is one of the stupidest things ever seen.  If it’s single player, I want to be able to play offline for when I don’t have the internet.  That’s why I have a laptop.

It just seems like a wasted effort on a game that had a lot of potential.  I am hoping that EA and other companies learn from this and find some middle ground between letting players actually play the game and securing their games (like a once every 2 week ping to the server).