SimCity, Diablo 3 Updates Show How Players Can Change Games
With the shutdown of the Diablo 3 Auction House and the launch of Sim City’s offline mode both coming today, gamers everywhere are getting concrete evidence of the influence they wield over the marketplace.
It’s easy for gamers to feel ineffectual. Despite the fact that it’s their money that feeds the multi-billion dollar industry beast, they rarely get a chance to talk directly to game developers. Instead, their feedback is relegated to forum posts, blog rants, or angry Twitter tirades. Beta feedback is often ignored, and in many cases, gamers might feel like they should give up expressing their feelings about the games they buy. But today, they got a great look at just how much power they actually have.
Both SimCity and Diablo 3 were games that had troubled launches due to their incorporation of always-online DRM. In both cases, gamers were extremely vocal about their displeasure. Even in the face of claims that the games were fine, and that complaints were limited to a “vocal minority,” that buzzword of criticism killers, the backlash against the games grew. Columnist Jim Sterling wrote a piece to clarify that bitching about Diablo 3 was allowed.
SimCity’s launch was actually worse than Diablo’s, as hard as that may be to believe. On launch day, the servers couldn’t stay up, and even the error message players received was bugged at times. EA went so far as to suspend its online marketing campaign for the game, and Amazon pulled the game from its site entirely for a short time. Just like Blizzard, Maxis admitted that the launch issues were its fault, calling the game’s lack of adequate servers “dumb.”
In both cases, players complained about the problems these games were experiencing. Petitions popped up all over the Internet, some asking government agencies to investigate, some asking for refunds, some asking for an offline mode, and all proclaiming loudly that neither of these titles was satisfactory to the consumer.
Today, one year after the launch of SimCity, and nearly two years since Diablo released, we can see the effects the legion of consumer complaints has wrought on these two titles. This morning, Blizzard completed the removal of the Real Money Auction House from Diablo 3. Also this morning, EA began the rollout of SimCity’s Offline Mode, a move EA had described in the past as, “just not possible.” How did these sweeping changes come about? What changed the minds of these huge game publishers? It’s simple: gamers made it happen.
Despite what you might think and what some denizens of the Internet might tell you, your voice matters. One person’s complaint about a game may not amount to much, but when groups of players are universally disappointed, companies take notice. It’s not just Blizzard and EA, either. Let’s not forget how quickly Microsoft moved to kill off the Xbox One’s ridiculous DRM plans once gamers got wind of the scheme, or how Bioware finally gave in and released an extended cut to try and fix the ending of Mass Effect 3 (even if it didn’t).
All of these examples were brought about entirely because players spoke up, and that’s a lesson we can’t forget going forward. As digital distribution, online DRM and the idea of games as a service become more and more mainstream, these types of situations are bound to pop up again.
It’s vital to the health of the industry that gamers continue to stand against excesses like these, and that they make themselves heard not only by being vocal, but by speaking with their wallets as well. Refusing to support companies that abuse the trust of their customers is the best method of making your voice heard.