Electronic Arts’ SimCity Mods Policy: Ingrateful Basterds

When it was first announced, I was happy to look on the bright side of Electronic Arts’ and Maxis’ “shocking” discovery that they could do the impossible and release an offline, presumably single-player version of SimCity. Despite the company’s continued willingness to look terrible by appearing to tell half-truths about the process by which that happened, it was at least finally waking up to the lessons previously learned by Sony and Microsoft. Any time an industry titan drifts away from the idea that insulting and imposing on customers is a solid business plan is a positive step.

But no, EA hasn’t suddenly put on its good guy hat. Despite positive signs, the company now needs to learn a more important lesson: Don’t crap all over your core fans.

In Which Core Fans are Dissed

For a game in the SimCity series, the core fan is, first and foremost, a modder. Don’t take my word for it, though – this list and this site barely scratch the surface of what can only be described as a panoply of add ons which improved the game, made it funnier or more interesting, and generally kept it… what’s the word? Oh, right. Relevant.

“…without obligation to pay you anything, obtain your approval, or give you credit.”

Simply put, modders are probably the reason we even got SimCity 2013. They’re definitely the reason people continued to care about the franchise, and we know this because even Electronic Arts has admitted it. During a panel in 2012, SimCity creative director Ocean Quigley said “We know the reason why people are still playing SimCity 4 ten years later is because the modding community has kept it alive.” That is as unambiguous as you can get.

One would think then that, with the release of an offline, moddable version of SimCity 2013 looming, EA would show a little gratitude for a community that provided so much uncompensated help for so many years. Unfortunately, even as EA finally threw a bone to the people asking incessantly for a single player version of SimCity, it couldn’t help but take a bone away from that same community with a policy on modding that, at best, can be described as passive-aggressive. Here are some choice bits from that policy, as explained two weeks ago when single player mode was announced:

“Mods may not modify any .com, .exe, .dll, .so or other executable files.
The terms and conditions of SimCity EULA and EA’s Terms of Service are specifically incorporated into this policy by this reference. In the event that the terms of this policy are in conflict with the terms of the SimCity EULA or EA’s Terms of Service, the terms of this Policy shall supersede and govern over any such conflicting terms.

“To maintain the integrity of SimCity and ensure the best possible gaming experience for our players, EA reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to revoke permission to use, distribute or make Mods at any time, to disable any Mod within SimCity and to take disciplinary action against players who harm the experience of others.

“Distribution of your Mod in any form constitutes a grant by you to EA of an irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free, sub-licensable right to use, copy, modify and distribute that Mod (and derivatives of that Mod), and use your name if we choose to, for any purpose and through any means, and without obligation to pay you anything, obtain your approval, or give you credit. You also agree to promptly execute assignments confirming this license upon request from EA.”

I hardly need to tell Game Front readers that this barely qualifies as a modding policy at all. Frankly, it’s the digital equivalent of “free speech zones.” The policy boils down to “you can only make superficial changes, no modifying the actual game and absolutely no conversions. Also, just FYI, we own whatever you do, and reserve the right to make money off of it without compensating you for your work.” Yes, modders are begrudgingly permitted to make what amounts to microtransactional add-ons without compensation, but they must never forget that they are barely welcome to do so.

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8 Comments on Electronic Arts’ SimCity Mods Policy: Ingrateful Basterds

concernedgamer82

On January 29, 2014 at 9:41 pm

I say: “Sit and spin.”

random

On January 29, 2014 at 11:51 pm

Not defending EA or this crappy game in anyway but…. the not letting you mod certain files may just be to make sure you can still go to the online mode and not nuke either their server with errors or make their customer support read and fix the same ticket all day. ( i installed mod x and now i cant play game with friend ugh.. fix you’re stupid ass game)

and for the no credit payment etc for using the mods people have made to make the base game better? wait a minute didn’t they do the same thing with minecraft ? which gets a gazillion mods every day. and has been getting allot better (not counting the upcoming patch it might crap on the game)

Red Menace

On January 30, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I haven’t purchased an EA games since they required Origins and I’ve never looked back.

quicktooth

On January 30, 2014 at 10:05 pm

I’m another person who stopped buying from EA when they introduced Origin, and I too have never looked back. There are a LOT of other fish in the sea. EA’s hilarious sense of self entitlement to my money and how I use my things is vaguely pitiful. I’m the buyer here, I choose what I get. They’re *absolutely* obnoxious and demanding, not to mention invasive of my privacy. I have zero interest in buying from them.

Kevin

On January 31, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Meanwhile look at games like Elder Scrolls and their still to this day vibrant community, even though Skyrim is now a 3 year old game. I fired it up recently (4th playthrough!) with new mods, and I’m finding a new game again. Look how well TES games sell on the PC. If you are going to build a series on the PC today, you need to have a mod-friendly community. that’s just the way the business is. If they want to keep alienating that community, that’s really their thing.

Skyrim proved that not only can a mod-friendly pc game work, but it’s insanely profitable.

JawaEsteban

On January 31, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Precisely. The entire TES series has made Bethesda a massive pile of money while also making a lot of players and modders very happy. Doesn’t stop there though, look at Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. Absolute money printers for Bethesda, both titles. Not only did Bethesda not put the brakes on modding those titles, they basically gave the world the keys to the car by releasing the GECK development tools for free.

Consequently, Bethesda has a giant fan base that holds the company in almost the same reverence as Valve and buys up games as fast as the company can make em’. On the other hand, you have EA, where a lot of gamers would probably celebrate if the corporate headquarters burned down in a large fire. There’s a lesson in that for EA, or there would be if the corporate leadership wasn’t comprised entirely of non-gamer money grubbing suits.

Michael

On February 3, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Just because EA has a policy against it, that doesn’t mean people aren’t going to do it. A policy is just a policy. That is too bad for them, I guess. People already pirated the game, they should just stop trying.

JD

On February 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm

While almost every week I buy games from other companies that care about users, I torrent every single EA title I’m interested on. I will never give a single coin to this suckers.