SimCity hits Europe, America still in peril

Friday, 8 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?