We Won’t Be Reviewing SimCity, Here’s Why
To say EA Games and Maxis’ SimCity has run into quite a few problems since launching earlier this week in North America would be a vast understatement. At this point in time, the game is practically broken since it requires you to always be connected online in order to play and the sheer amount of people trying to log on have crippled EA's servers.
The specific problems SimCity has faced since launch have been well documented elsewhere – from losing city progress for paying customers, to EA removing “non-critical” features to stabilize servers, to Amazon pulling the digital version of the game from their storefront (it's been restored at time of publishing). We haven’t run any of these stories because, frankly, we can’t keep up with it all. You might call that lazy reporting on our part, but I’m going to instead call it noise management. We just didn’t know the noise would get this loud. So now we can't ignore it.
A few days ago we somehow managed to record a Watch Us Play for SimCity. It gives you a good idea what to expect from the game… when it’s actually working. But even if we wanted to give it a thorough run-through for a review, we couldn’t right now. It’s nearly impossible to get past the game’s queue, and even if you pull that off, there’s no guarantee that you won’t get booted within minutes due to the shaky servers currently operating.
So we’re going to just wash our hands of the whole situation.
EA might get SimCity fully operational later today, or tomorrow, or maybe two weeks from now. But that doesn’t change the fact that SimCity remains a failure at launch, not because the game itself is bad, per se, but because it’s unplayable due to the forced always-on internet connection and digital rights management (DRM) software at work.
And that’s a can of ugly, ugly worms.
The launch of Diablo III experienced something similar due to its DRM protection, forcing players to log online whenever they wanted to play. The Diablo III situation was scary, as many justifiably pissed gamers took to forums to log their complaints and criticisms against this relatively new, controversial brand of anti-piracy protection publishers/developers were forcing on PC gamers.
What’s funny is that a developer on SimCity actually called out the launch of Diablo III last year (via Kotaku) and promised history wouldn’t repeat itself with SimCity, his quote forever etched into the fabric of the internet:
EA is an on online company. We're definitely watching what's going on at Blizzard, and we're putting in backstops and checks to try to prevent those kind of things from happening.
Bet he regrets that one right about now.
But the point of all this is to say that we’re not even going to waste the time reviewing SimCity. In its current state it’s a game you can't play, making it not much of a game at all. There’s still the UK launch to look forward to, which EA is confident will go over much smoother than the US launch. Us? We’ve got our popcorn ready.
But if anything good can come from this, it’s the lesson that DRM is a terrible, terrible idea, as sincere as its implementation may be. Piracy sucks and the people who do it are assholes, there’s no arguing that, but the solution isn’t to kick the loyal, paying customers in the man beans. There has to be an alternative to piracy that works for all parties. We just haven’t found it yet. But until we do, let’s just toss DRM in the trash where it belongs.
And as for SimCity, EA might want to check the expectations of those interested in playing by renaming it “SimQueue.”