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.