The SimCity Reversal: Is Our EA Learning?

So let’s talk about Electronic Arts and Maxis’ surprise-not surprise decision to finally create an offline mode for SimCity, a game which should never have been released without one.

No, actually, let’s talk first about why it took so long for offline mode to happen.

The last several years, since at least 2010, have been defined by a curious arrogance in the gaming industry. Sony’s outright deception over the notorious Playstation Network hack comes to mind. So too does Microsoft’s decision to spend 2013 shoving its foot in and out of its mouth. But Electronic Arts has earned what may be the worst reputation in the business for numerous examples of imperious arrogance.

This behavior — and it’s almost too frequent to bother listing here — has never been as indefensibly dishonest as, say, Sony’s response to (and denial of) the PSN hack. But combined, it has given critics enough fodder that EA has the ignoble distinction of being crowned Consumerist’s worst company in America two years in a row. And much like for Microsoft, 2013 was a bad year on that reputation front. EA currently faces several investor lawsuits over the botched launch of Battlefield 4, and it’s almost certain that investor response to BF4′s launch was made possible thanks to the horrendous drubbing EA took over the positively disastrous launch of SimCity seven months earlier.

We don’t need to rehash just how terrible that launch was here, but I will point out that the simple explanation for this disaster seems to be that EA and developer Maxis made SimCity a multiplayer-only experience, with an always-online requirement which forced players to be in near constant communication with EA servers, and then apparently failed to allocate resources to handle the burden caused by so users trying to access the game at launch. This suggested a lack of proper planning of course, but also a disinterest in what actual SimCity players want.

Almost as soon as it became known it would be an always-online, multiplayer-only experience, fans were asking for EA to release an offline, single-player version of the SimCity. EA and developer Maxis rebuffed such requests, typically with content-free explanations for the decision, like repeating that the game was “designed from the ground up with multiplayer in mind,” and similar such pablum. When the game launched and the aforementioned disaster unfolded, those calls for single-player SimCity only increased.

Alas, EA and Maxis’ response was to double down. Throughout the year, we were told offline mode was impossible, most notably in March of 2013 by the official SimCity Twitter feed. Note that phrasing. EA and Maxis didn’t just use weasel language to avoid committing to an actual position, though they did just that from time to time. Their official spokespersons actually stated in clear, unambiguous language that such a feature just could not be instituted.

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10 Comments on The SimCity Reversal: Is Our EA Learning?


On January 17, 2014 at 5:55 pm

“We should be glad because, just like last year when Microsoft finally got around to reversing course on the horrendously bad aspects of Xbox One, EA and Maxis’ reversal on SimCity is an example of the collective gaming industry finally getting an important message drilled into its head:

Giving your customers something they want works better than telling them they’ll get what you give them and like it, or they can eat poop.”

@Ross: I commend you on your optimism, but I’ll believe it when I see it.


On January 17, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Ross, did you happen to read that release about the modding policy for Sim City this week?

If not, you should read it, then update this post you’ve made here. It will answer the question you posed in the title.

Red Menace

On January 17, 2014 at 6:33 pm

They don’t learn, they simply react.


On January 17, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Let’s start slow and wait and see what they do with Dragon Age. It is going to have a mp component that nobody asked for right?


On January 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Not EA is not learning. EA isn’t a gaming company, it’s a gray suit franchise farm. What does this mean? It means they’ll do anything to make money and appease stockholders. This pathetic attempt to poke the formaldehyde filled corpse of the once great simcity franchise is nothing more than a faux fallacy.

You want hope? Look to indie.


On January 19, 2014 at 2:05 am

My gripe with the game wasn’t the always online, it was the immersion breaking simulation(sims sleep in different homes, take different jobs everyday. Then why sim individual persons?) and the tiny city size. It seems to me that the both are connected. What they should do is to remove the agent based simulation of the population, replace it with something pretty that’s low on the computer resources so they can put resources to the things that really matter in a city building game. The city. The game needs to be more of a city and economy management game and less of a dollhouse.

I realize that this is can only be done in an expansion pack, but if they did I would probably end up buying it. A fix that is not as extensive but quicker and less costly to implement would be a challange mode. Make X happen, with Y money within Z time. Something that I could chew on. The game is so easy right now there’s virtually no way to fail.


On January 19, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Now they just need to fix city sizes and I’ll actually consider buying it.


On January 20, 2014 at 1:47 am

Not looking like a smug and soulless lizard now, are you Ricatello? HAHAHAHA you got what you deserved. Lost your job. Hooray! Now if only all the OTHER people in the games industry who do evil deeds like EA followed suit. I’ve personally solved the problem forever by simply never buying anything anyone evil sells ever again. So many lost sales, and all because of attacking my civil rights(!), unethically not giving me access to stuff on the game disk already paid for(!), staring over my shoulding in my very bedroom and treating me like a criminal(!), trying to dictate what I (the paying customer) can say about a game and when I can say it(!), etc etc(!?!). It just beggars belief that most of the triple-A companies have NOT gone bankrupt, given all this terrible treatment of paying customers. That’s how buisness is SUPPOSED to work. Why would people give them money, given all that abuse? WHY? Well, I’m cautiously optimistic that this reversal by EA could (might) be the start of a (potential) new trend…

Ross Lincoln

On January 20, 2014 at 8:30 am

@SupremeAllah – I’ll be addressing their terrible modding policies this week. Rest assured, I am not arguing EA is good, I am only pointing out that companies seem to finally be grasping that “ting all over your customers” isn’t a winning strategy.

Uh Non E-muss

On March 28, 2014 at 11:47 am

This reminds me of GTAIV and Games for Windows Live. What’s that? You’re not logged in, oh, you need to make a new game to play single player. For some reason, being logged in to GFWL is essential to saving the game and recording achievements for a game which I imagine most people play by themselves.

It’s just bad programming. Just because someone’s a professional doesn’t mean they’re good or even know what they’re doing. I’m pretty sure The Sims 3 had some of the worst bugs in it. Like the engine reporting 200+ frames per second, but the game displaying less than 1 frame per second. Hell, I know someone who hired a programmer once, and he had to make a simple registration system and ended up creating some long list the system looped through several times instead of taking an OO aproach.