SimCity: Proving Always-Online DRM Doesn’t Work
People knew a problem would arise even before the game released, but SimCity still managed to cause a big ruckus when it launched due in large part to requiring gamers to be always connected online while playing. SimCity is a pretty big name in the gaming world. I still fondly remember just randomly messing around in SimCity 2000 all those years ago. From there grew more games within the ‘Sim’ world. Coming back to SimCity should have been a great occasion to remember. Instead it’ll now be remembered for the wrong reasons.
A lot of the complaints directed at SimCity stem from the fact that to play the single-player portion of the game, you still need to be constantly connected online. This is a similar occurrence in Diablo 3 too. Whilst some gamers may not care about such a limitation, it does have a major impact. Many gamers who can’t easily gain internet access are left out. And as many found out during launch day, even if you do have good internet access, it will still depend on EA and their servers as to whether or not you get to play the game.
Servers issues disrupted many gamers and their chance at playing SimCity early on. Whether it be connecting to servers in the first place or being forced to wait until a server was free, there were just way too many obstacles in getting to the meat of the game. People who had paid good money for the game were denied access to said game. That just can’t be right. In any business.
EA might claim that server stress caught them off guard, but shouldn’t that be their primary priority if their game was going to be always-online? If EA screw up at launch, what is stopping them from screwing up at any other time? It also brings up the question of how does someone access a game they bought legitimately when those servers are finally shut down? No longer will you be able to play a game many years later. And if you think that doesn’t happen, tell that to all the people who still play old-school games.
To be fair, SimCity was developed with online an integral part of the game. That doesn’t really absolve the game from the problems it faced though. Dark Souls is a game with an important online component too, yet it still manages to cater to offline play. It should still be possible, and to deny offline play really spits in the face of the gamers. Like I said earlier, these are legitimate customers with legitimate copies of the game, but they are treated spitefully.
It doesn’t help that EA’s customer service manage to give itself a bad name too. A few complaints arose of people unable to gain refunds as they took to protesting with their wallets. A little to late though, as EA isn’t really interested in dealing with refunds. A few gamers have also suggested that they were threatened with bans if they tried to gain a refund. EA have come out and stated that they won’t ban anyone over this issue, but the damage has already been done.
Honestly, it is hard to see EA struggle in the future simply due to this event. EA still have a good monopoly on games and genres, so they will likely survive for a while. Little by little though, gamers’ patience are being tested. There’s a line that once crossed, will turn away a majority of gamers. I worry that the gaming industry might never recover from such an event. Developers and publishers have to remember that this is simply entertainment, they are ultimately at the mercy of the consumer.