The SimCity Reversal: Is Our EA Learning?
Of course, somehow EA and Maxis discovered a way to make the impossible possible, or so we have to assume. As recently as last fall, Maxis confirmed it was exploring the possibility of such a mode, and that exploration culminated in this week’s announcement.
We all had a lot of fun at EA’s expense when offline mode was announced this week. It’s difficult to call someone a liar when you don’t, strictly speaking, have proof someone is lying. But it’s not difficult to point out that repeatedly claiming something could never be done, only to finally give in and do it, has the unmistakable whiff of, ahem, not complete honesty. (It doesn’t help that in his lengthy explanation of the difficulty in implementing these changes, Simon Fox, lead engineer for SimCity’s single player mode, claimed, “When the game released, our fans were calling for Offline. I rallied the team to start making that happen as soon as practical after launch.”)
We’ll charitably assume the fact that Fox’s rallying remained secret while other company reps were insisting it could never happen was a simple internal miscommunication. We’ll note instead that EA and Maxis changed their positions and after nearly a year of the slow-motion train wreck that was SimCity, they’ve finally gotten around to delivering something people have wanted from the beginning.
Many of my peers in games journalism have called this about-face yet more proof of Electronic Arts’ fundamental problems with its relationship with consumers. But the thing is, as bad as EA and Maxis’ behavior has been, as much fun as it is to mock them — rightly — for needlessly laying a trap for themselves like this, as infuriating as it is that not one company representative has bothered to acknowledge and address claims about impossibility — we should be happy they’re actually making an offline mode.
No, not because EA is now our friend. And certainly not out of gratitude. 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.
That industry-wide arrogance I spoke about at the beginning of this piece, it’s still going to be a problem. But the industry also is finally learning that it won’t be rewarded for that arrogance. Perhaps it was its bad reputation, or perhaps it was the rumored sharply declining sales of SimCity, but whatever the reason, EA has finally decided to just surrender and give fans what they’ve been asking for all along.
That kind of move is always good for consumers, even if it doesn’t come with a lengthy, honest mea culpa that allows one to gloat back.