Mar 8 2013 3:00pm

Gaming Roundup: SimCity Launches (Sort Of) Amidst Speculated EA Scandal

Gaming Roundup EA SimCity Online-Only DRM Scandal

Electronic Arts’ SimCity launched—kind of—earlier this week, to much initial fanfare. While many bemoaned the game’s use of always-online DRM, anticipation was high for the return of EA’s classic world builder, especially due to developer Maxis’s implementation of multiplayer, allowing gamers to cooperate with or sabotage their friends’ cities to fulfill challenges. Then launch day came around, and disaster struck—best exemplified by the screen above, courtesy of perhaps the most fitting review of the game on the internet by Jonathan Cresswell.

In a gaffe reminiscent of Diablo III’s infamous Error 37, SimCity fell victim to its own opening day popularity. Servers were overloaded, and the long and short of it is that pretty much no one was able to get online in order to play one of the most hyped games of the year—an issue that has yet to be completely resolved. Frustrated reviewers, even those who had played the game before general release and knew of its actual worth, gave the game poor or incomplete marks due to their being unable to continue playing. While the quality of the game may eventually shine through, the initial burst of poor word-of-mouth will haunt the game for some time to come and will cast a pall over what might otherwise have been a contender for game of the year.

What may potentially prove to be the most shocking aspect of SimCity’s launch is EA’s alleged response to this PR disaster. Many who oppose always-online DRM gleefully (and rightfully in this case) skewered EA for their preparedness, or lack thereof. The game’s Metacritic user score suffered from thousands of negative reviews. Then Play4Real Gaming dropped a potential bombshell, claiming to have knowledge of EA hiring hundreds of spammers to counter negative word-of-mouth against SimCity and its always-online requirement. Please keep in mind that this is all only speculation at the moment, as no mainstream gaming news sites have run with this story yet and P4R is currently the only available source. If true, though, EA has a lot of ’splainin’ to do. We will continue to update this space if the story is either squashed or further validated.

As it stands, EA has resolved some of the connectivity issues by disabling a few non-core game features that will be worked back in as kinks are worked out. Hopefully by this time next week we’ll have more information on the game itself and less on the mishaps surrounding it.

In other gaming news this week, Assassin’s Creed IV is announced (much to the chagrin of PETA), Thief returns to the gaming world, and hints at a new Deus Ex game have surfaced. Read on!

  • Ubisoft released the Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag trailer this week, which revealed that the upcoming game will be taking the naval battles of Assassin’s Creed III to a whole new level by situating the player in the golden age of pirates—and making them a contemporary of Blackbeard, no less. Is it just us, or does it just feel like last year (oh wait, it was last year) that Assassin’s Creed III came out? Feels a bit too soon. Assasin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is set to launch on October 29.

If there are games you’d like us to cover or blogs you think we should be following for more news, please let us know @tdelucci or @pritpaulbains.

Devin Singer
1. DevinSinger
In hyper-current news, Lord British's return to RPGs looks likely since his Kickstarter, announced this morning, is already a quarter funded: The first-tier reward is particularly amusing and awesome.

Are any of the folks going to PAX East?
Pritpaul Bains
2. Kickpuncher
More games from Ultima's founding father? Yes please! Will have to plug this in next week's roundup.

Sadly, we won't have coverage from the floors of PAX East this year (though we'll be following and summating a Best Of as anything breaking filters online). We're hoping to be at PAX Prime again later this year though.
3. Thaxll
Nothing about Inxile's second Kickstarter funded game, a successor to Planescape: Torment by much of the original team, that made over a million in under 7 hours and has more than doubled that now 2 days later?
Pritpaul Bains
4. Kickpuncher
@3 An oversight we'll be sure to remedy next week. Planescape: Torment remains to this day one of my favorite stories ever told in a game.

In more breaking news regarding SimCity, EA has suspended the game's marketing campaign in light of their disastrous debut. Oh boy.
Marcus W
5. toryx
I hate the very idea of requiring an online connection to play. It's a disaster every time, but will they learn? Nope.

I'd be excited about Thief if it weren't for the fact that I won't be buying the next gen consoles any time soon.
Mordicai Knode
6. mordicai
I mean, people who universally hate always-online DRM are pretty well & truly vindicated by this, though. I mean, besides any conspiracy theories, the fact that you can't play the game is a pretty good argument for...well, not playing the game.
Pritpaul Bains
7. Kickpuncher
@5 toryx Right there with you. Diablo 3 went through the same issues to a lesser extent. Hope someone learns eventually but no doubt it's better for a lot of bottom lines, so forget about the quality hit consumers take.

Re: Thief, maybe we can hold out hope for a PC version down the road and the franchise can return to its roots. Probably a longshot though.

@6 mordicai Hah. I just don't see how the model makes sense for any non-MMO game. It's ridiculous and a last-ditch proprietary effort, I guess, but the thing is there are still ways around it via cracked servers, etc. It's just making things worse for those who actually -do- buy the game whilst doing little to nothing to those pirating it anyways.
Mordicai Knode
8. mordicai
7. Kickpuncher

Yeah, I am not a l33t hax0r or anything; I want to follow the rules, but if you make your game unplayable without me finding grey ethical routes around it...I'll just skip it entirely.
Brent Longstaff
9. Brentus
@7 When they said Thief was for next-gen consoles, they didn't mean it wouldn't be on PC (which already can run next-gen games). They just meant it wasn't going to be on the ancient current gen consoles. Thief 4 is going to be on PC, according to
Pritpaul Bains
10. Kickpuncher
@9 That's fantastic news! Thief and Thief II were among my favorite gaming experiences (I'm a PC gamer at heart, though I've slowly come to accept consoles as an industry reality).
Alexander Case
11. CountZeroOr
I'm waiting for PETA to attack the Monster Hunter franchise at some point in the future.

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