Electronic Arts’ SimCity Mods Policy: Ingrateful Basterds

Lack of Gratitude, Willfully Blind to the Competition

While I doubt EA would characterize the policy thusly, by now it should recognize that these policies utterly spit on modders who, as we’ve already said, almost single handedly kept the SimCity franchise alive during a decade in which Electronic Arts could hardly bring itself to acknowledge it even owned it. The policy would be bad enough even without taking the contributions of modders into account, but it’s even worse when compared to how other major publishers choose to interact with the community.

Yes, it should be noted that Valve’s notoriously dense end user license agreements lead to the conclusion that modders are similarly limited on Steam. (Read them here.) But the language also says that modders retain ownership of their creations. To clarify, we spoke to Valve Vice President of Marketing Doug Lombardi, who confirmed for Game Front that unlike the SimCity modding policy, modders over on Steam retain considerable rights to their creations. Lombardi told us:

  • “Valve gives all users a license to Valve games which includes the ability to make noncommercial use of game materials. This includes creating mods that are available for free to game users. Commercializing the mod requires a separate license from Valve – typically a license to create a stand-alone game with Valve’s game engine.”
  • “When users create something new for our titles, they own it, subject only to Valve’s underlying IP in the game itself.”
  • “When users contribute something to the Workshop, they keep ownership, and just license it to Valve non-exclusively.”

Valve’s policy of letting modders retain ownership of their mods comes in stark contrast to EA’s relative meagerness. One is reminded of Microsoft, who went into the Eighth Generation of consoles acting as though their anticonsumer policies weren’t unique but in fact were universal. Of course, Microsoft was quickly disabused of that notion once Sony unveiled Playstation 4, and soon changed gears. EA lacks similarly effective market pressure, since we’re talking about features that are, essentially, free to anyone willing to put in the time it takes to become a modder.

Of course, Valve’s policies go beyond simply allowing people to retain rights to their mods. Because modders are allowed to sell their creations, a vibrant economy has grown up around games with heavy modding communities. Modders are sometimes even able to earn a healthy living from something as simple as new hats for Team Fortress 2. Such items become in and of themselves reasons to play the game, which means modders can, in fact, end up pushing more money into the hands of the original developer.

That presents Electronic Arts with a great opportunity not only show some appreciation to the people who have, uncompensated, kept one of its most venerable properties viable, but to make some extra money simply by letting these people make some extra money. Even with the absurd prohibition against modification of executable files, the ability to enhance my game by purchasing add-ons directly from their creators would be reason enough to play the offline version of SimCity 2013. That EA would rather remove even that meager incentive to mod smacks of, at minimum, petulant ingratitude.

It’s also foolish. Because there’s something else EA will probably learn very quickly after the new version of SimCity is released…

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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.