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.

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

Foehunter82

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.

SupremeAllah

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.

fethski

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?

Evernessince

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.

Naug

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.

Kevin

On January 19, 2014 at 3:20 pm

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

quicktooth

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.