Electronic Arts' SimCity is a "Broken" and Unplayable "Disaster"
It is not uncommon for consumers to complain about the technical problems that plague some video games. It is rare, however, that a game is so problematic that it is universally panned by critics and consumers alike.
SimCity might have set a new record in this regard, as it is being called a disaster by multiple publications. Customer complaints have been so extreme that Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) temporarily suspended digital orders of the game.
The problems stem from (but are not limited to) server failures that prevent players from entering the game. Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA), which published the new SimCity, requires players to be online and logged into a server in order to play. This restrictive feature was designed to curb piracy, but it stands to hurt legitimate customers more than anyone else.
Ubisoft attempted to employ similar features in 2011 and 2012. Last September the company accepted the negative feedback and scrapped the program. PC consumers are still required to activate new Ubisoft games, but after that they are free to play online or offline.
SimCity's problems are not limited to the online requirement, however. Those who are lucky enough to play the game will find that is, according to IGN, "unplayably broken."
"Unplayably" is not technically a word, but the point is well taken. SimCity is performing so poorly that Electronic Arts disabled non-critical features in an attempt to improve the experience.
Chris Kluwe, a punter for the Minnesota Vikings and longtime fan of the SimCity series, was hugely disappointed by the game.
"At the time of writing this piece, SimCity 5 has been active for almost 62 hours," Kluwe wrote in his review. "Of those 62 hours, I've been able to log in for around ten. Of those ten, four consisted of massive latency issues and corrupted games, so (quick calculation here), I've had access to the actual game for maybe 10 percent of the time I've had it."
Kluwe was particularly upset by the online requirement, especially for a series that was once known for delivering a great single-player experience.
Last summer, Kip Katserelis (a producer at Maxis, one of Electronic Arts' studios) told Kotaku that the company was ready for the game's launch. When asked about the chance of repeating the errors of Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ: ATVI) Diablo III (which also had error-filled servers), Katserelis pointed to Electronic Arts' experience.
"We've got experience from Spore and Darkspore," he said. "EA is an online company. We're definitely watching what's going on at Blizzard, and we're putting in backstops and checks to try to prevent those kind of things from happening."
Evidently those "checks" and "backstops" were not enough to ensure a successful launch for SimCity.
If consumers are unsatisfied with their purchase, they might think they can ask for a refund. According to Polygon and IGN, that is not the case. Electronic Arts is (mostly) holding firm to its no-refund policy.
Despite these issues, investors are not abandoning the stock in record numbers. As of this writing, Electronic Arts is down less than one percent.
Perhaps this is a buying opportunity for those who think Electronic Arts won't screw up the next game it forces people to stay online to play.
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