EA and the SimCity Disaster
By Daniel Maurer
The future looked bright. A new SimCity game was announced and PC gamers everywhere were excited to get their hands on the next version of the world famous SimCity series. Finally the game released to the masses and within a few short weeks, EA managed to take back the #1 spot of “Most Hated Video Game Company” that Activision managed to wrestle away from them a while ago. Massive server issues, no offline play options, and hoards of other flaws and glitches lead not only to EA offering free games to cover their own asses over this massive screw up, but the resignation of CEO John Ricitiello after 6 years on the job.
What went wrong? Well for starters Electronic Arts was not prepared properly for the surge of users that would flood their servers. Another issue that angered gamers everywhere was EA Maxis’ very strict DRM tools implemented into the game. While EA’s servers buckled and crashed down all around them, gamers who wanted to play the new SimCity were upset to find out that because of the strict DRM, they basically were left with a useless game that couldn’t be played unless a connection to the server was present. Gamer backlash followed and scores of pissed off gamers everywhere roared onto internet message boards all over the world.
The downfall was shift and powerful as not only did EA end up offering free games to win back the same gamers they pissed off and ran away, but the CEO resigned over the embarrassment that followed. Here is what EA had to say regarding his resignation:
“We thank John for his contributions to EA since he was appointed CEO in 2007, especially the passion, dedication and energy he brought to the Company every single day,” said Executive Chairman Larry Probst. “John has worked hard to lead the Company through challenging transitions in our industry, and was instrumental in driving our very significant growth in digital revenues. We appreciate John’s leadership and the many important strategic initiatives he has driven for the Company. We have mutually agreed that this is the right time for a leadership transition.”
To this day, EA is still trying to smooth over the process and are working daily to stabilize its overloaded and crippled servers. Let this be a lesson to all video game companies out there looking to implement strict DRM only tools into their future games, learn a lesson from EA and make sure you weigh all your options before implementing such features. Otherwise you will end up running off the very gamers that give you the success you enjoy now.
Despite these calamities, the launch of the latest SimCity has been somewhat of a success, as implied by the following news released by EA two weeks after the launch:
Gamers have logged on to SimCity via Origin in record numbers, with 44 percent of SimCity sales delivered via EA’s direct-to-consumer digital download service. SimCity gamers have also helped set new records for peak concurrent users on Origin, now at 1.3 million and rising.
In the first two weeks:
* SimCity players have logged more than 15 million hours of online gameplay.
* More than 5.7 million original cities have been created since launch.
* More than 780 million buildings have been built.
* SimCity mayors to date have built enough road and railroad tracks to circle the globe more than 40,000 times.
The Maxis studio also continues to enhance both the core SimCity game and the online service infrastructure; in the last two weeks, they have increased server capacity by more than 400%, optimized server response times by 40 times, and deployed fixes to address players’ direct feedback on game performance.
So we will have to wait and see what long-term effect this disaster will have on EA and the SimCity brand!
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