SimCity hits Europe, America still in peril

Friday, 8th March 2013 09:20 GMT By Dave Cook

SimCity just launched in the UK, while the US build continues to suffer. We chart EA’s hellish week to recap exactly what went wrong.

When SimCity launched in the US, players were quickly hit by a flood of Origin and server issues. The rush to make tiny worlds saw the game choked within an inch of its life, turning EA’s face a brighter shade of red. Apologies, excuses and regular Tweets suggested a publisher in disarray.

It started with this, when the game launched on March 5:

Which was then followed by this:

The Origin Twitter feed is now full of these apologetic, floundering messages asking players to hang tight or be patient. It really begs questions over the nature of the digital-only landscape.

If this – and not forgetting the Diablo 3 launch debacle – is a preview of what’s in store once everything is sold down the digital pipe, then it’s clear that some publishers and studios need to get their house in order first. Buying a game and then being asked to wait two hours to play it is not – if you’ll excuse me for being so radical – good customer service.

The saga continued long into the night and across the days that followed. Initial reviews began. Polygon gave the game 9/10. Today that score was whittled down to a four. The impression left is one of scorn, with gamers and the press lambasting Maxis and EA for not being ‘battle ready’.

In response to the issues, Amazon pulled the digital-only version of SimCity from its store, for fear of customers paying for something that was essentially unusable.

Maxis eventually pulled the plug on many of SimCity’s non-critical features in an attempt to isolate the problem and ease server flow. Fair enough, but this still results in people paying for an incomplete product, one that they cannot fully use. It simply doesn’t look good.

The killer blow came when the Origin community manager stated that unsatisfied customers could get a refund by contacting EA direct. The statement was quickly revised to say that no, actually you could not. In fact, no refunds are being offered if you bought the game through Origin. At all.

But now, some ‘good’ news. The European launch has gone well apparently, and EA has even added an extra server to make sure players on this side of the pond can enjoy their purchase as intended.

Nice. But it’s still not good enough.

It’s all well and good to beat chests about how the European launch has gone well – it hasn’t by the way – but the fact remains that many American gamers who had either pre-purchased or saved up to buy SimCity are now out of pocket, staring at something they can’t use, and worse of all, can’t touch.

I say that because the games industry wants to go fully digital over time. That’s not just wishful thinking, it’s just a fact, but current technology isn’t quite there yet globally. But if this is the potential way of things then perhaps there’s something to be said for bricks and mortar stores yet.

But then I remember Steam, GoG and Green Man Gaming – to name a few – has been issuing digital purchases for years now without issue. So perhaps the issue then is that EA needs to take a step back to revise and think about how it’s going to get its house in order before attempting to tussle with the big boys at Valve and CD Projekt, so that embarrassing issues like the Sim City are resigned to memory.

What’s your view?



  1. OwnedWhenStoned

    The European launch went well you say?

    No, it didn’t.

    It didn’t launch smoothly at all. I spent a few hours with a friend trying to get the game working yesterday evening. Network errors everywhere. Servers full. Game client crashing. Finally got connected, started the tutorial, crashed again. Couldn’t get back on (to any EU server)

    I don’t know where you got that information from, but we weren’t alone having problems in Europe. Check the forums.

    #1 2 years ago

    WTF! European launch didn’t run well either, most of my mates are still complaining about it….

    SimCity launch has to be the biggest fail from EA I have ever seen.

    Thank god Nintendo rejected them. E.A deserve nothing.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @1 I’m not being serious mate, of course it’s not going well. The whole thing is a shambles.

    EDIT: So I’ve edited the body text a little to make that clearer. Apologies if my horrid sarcasm didn’t communicate well ;)

    Cheers for reading :)

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Dragon246

    I don’t think its out of the ordinary. Bad, but not something unexpected.
    Simple reason, they buy servers for a fixed number of people that will play the game. But at launch, they get battered by millions at once, leading to crashes. Its simply unreasonable to buy servers for millions of hits that will only last for a few days.

    Although this problem could easily be mitigated by removing the useless always-on DRM. But unfortunately that will not happen since I heard that Diablo 3 was very successful with always-on drm which drastically reduced piracy.

    I wonder if EA purposely tries to attract criticism. All you hear is bad news about them.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. OwnedWhenStoned



    Yeah, that one went right over my head due to self righteous anger.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @5 I know :D

    #6 2 years ago
  7. OwnedWhenStoned

    And I’m actually not that pissed because I didný buy it (the beta was warning enough) but even I was getting incredibly frustrated trying to get it working last night.

    Total shambles indeed!

    #7 2 years ago
  8. OwnedWhenStoned


    No idea if this is any good, but it was always going to happen I guess.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Eregol

    @8 Nice one. Might pledge to the when payday rolls around.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. NocturnalB

    American here. I purchased this game and yes i fully expected problems especially with login…. but this game has been an absolute nightmare since i got it. Even when i do manage to get online, the game keeps breaking itself after bout 5 minutes of play…. by breaking i mean it will either exit itself completely without warning, freeze and crash, or multiple in-game things will just stop functioning…. like my fire department..

    I told myself i wasn’t going to buy this one either, because of this DRM crap but the inner SimCity lover in me won over…. i should have stuck with my original instinct. EA ruined yet another game.. I am so sick of this bullshit.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Fin

    Pretty sure the backwards question mark’s official use is sarcasm.

    EA have done really well with the SimCity launch؟

    #11 2 years ago
  12. OwnedWhenStoned


    Yes, we had the same issues last night here in Europe too. Really weird behaviour, icons going missing, and then just crashing out. And that was just the tutorial.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @11 hah :P

    #13 2 years ago
  14. stockops3

    This is why you never buy popular online games at launch they just f**k you over, a la Diablo 3 Launch Day

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Myth

    The Europe launch was worse than any of the others. I played through VPN in Singapore on Monday, that’s when it was the best – I was actually able to play until Europe came on, most likely because I was online in off-peak hours.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Soft-Is

    #16 2 years ago
  17. livewired500

    Sim City: Working as intended.

    It isn’t the problem with digital distribution overall. No it is a problem with Origin sucks and EA consistently shipping unfinished products to meet self imposed deadlines.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. mistermogul

    The reason I’m not buying this game has nothing to do with the server issues but more to do with it becoming defunct in a year or two when EA inevitably pull the servers.

    I remember the good old days when you could go buy a disc from the shop, put it in your PC and play the effing game whenever you wanted. Even 10 years down the road which likely wont be the case with this Sim City.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Diingo

    F*ck EA. It’s as simple as that. As consumers we need to vote with our wallets, every studio they touch ruins the entire franchise. This needs to stop now.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. mistermogul

    There is a very good article at IGN which is well worth a read:

    #20 2 years ago
  21. The_Red

    When IGN of all sites writes something like this about your game and service, you must have really effed up. Well done EA. You successfully ruined SimCity 5.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. manamana

    @20 First worthwhile IGN article in years.

    #22 2 years ago

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