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Games Entertainment

Sim-Dud? 355

Lumpish Scholar writes ""The Sims Online" was one of the most anticipated releases of 2002; but (according to this Los Angeles Times story in the Baltimore Sun, "'The Sims Online' sold 105,000 copies, or only about a quarter of the initial shipment in December," and (as quoted in this article in the New York Times), "the company's president, John S. Riccitiello, said the number of subscribers was half what Electronic Arts expected." (Check out Google News for more articles, and a registration-free partner link to the New York Times story.) Meanwhile, the game's customer reviews at Amazon.com have an average rating of only two (out of five) stars."
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  • Err... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Bitman ( 95493 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:13PM (#5232478) Homepage
    Maybe it's because no one wants to pay what you'd expect to pay for a full-fledged RPG when all you get is IRC and a set of meaningless stats that don't actually effect gameplay?
    They should be trying to get sales, not subscriptions. If it were like Battle.net, people would be stepping over eachother to get a copy. Pay for Chat? Not bloody likely. Remember Alpha World?
  • by cenonce ( 597067 ) <anthony_t@ma[ ]om ['c.c' in gap]> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:14PM (#5232499)

    I think EA (and Microsoft) probably overestimated the number of broadband users.

    At 40 bucks a month (at a minimum), Broadband ain't cheap. And though Sims Online is quite fun, it would suck without a highspeed connection. And anyway, The Sims is pretty fun on its own... without dealing with virtual SimTrolls.


  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:16PM (#5232523) Homepage Journal
    When you play "The Sims" you get multiple people you control, and a whole environment you have a decent amount of control over. You garner people, make two seperate people and make them fall in love, introduce a third to start a fight.

    When you add the 'multiplayer' experience, you add in two things that are negative to this style of game.
    Loss of Control
    and Competition

    Now this simple game has become Everquest when that isn't the whole point of the game.
  • by Ravenscall ( 12240 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:16PM (#5232525)
    Interact with thousands of real people, doing everyday, real life things.

    If I wanted to do that, I would go to work. And then Dinner and a movie.

  • It's Dead... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deathlizard ( 115856 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:18PM (#5232536) Homepage Journal
    ...Because you had to Pay to Play. Especially when McDonalds and Pepsi was Buying Ad's on it.

    If they would have made the thing free but then used the sims game design to sell product placements they probably would have been more sucessful and probably could have demanded more money from advertisers because of the huge turnout of players to the game.
  • It's boring! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mean_Nishka ( 543399 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:20PM (#5232562) Homepage Journal
    I tried out the trial edition of this software and it's just plain boring. My stupid sim couldn't hold its bladder half the time and was peeing all over the place.. So most of your time is spent making the stupid avatar eat, shit, and sleep.

    Why should I pay $10 a month for something I do now in real life for free? And I can even get laid in the real world!

  • by ByTor-2112 ( 313205 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:22PM (#5232589)
    Yeah, right. Just because some game reviewer calls it "highly anticipated" does not make it so. Just because it gets 300 reviews from hard-core gamers proclaiming it the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread (tm) doesn't make it fabulous. It's just talking heads, so no one should be surprised. No one wants monthly fees.
  • by Rayonic ( 462789 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:23PM (#5232600) Homepage Journal
    Why pay $30, $40, or even $50 for a game which you then have to start paying for monthly? I don't have anything against subscription-based games, but I would think that the continuous payments might somehow offset the initial purchase price of the product.

    I know most of these MMORPG games give you X months free, but that price sticker on the box in the store contributes a lot to their purchasing decision. It'd be a great deal if they charged $200 for the game and gave you 40 months free, but do you think that such a package would sell?

    The cost of entry for an MMORPG should be low-to-free. What about development costs, you say? Raise the monthly rate a dollar or two. Yeesh.
  • by neverkevin ( 601884 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:31PM (#5232679) Homepage
    It is not the business model, it is that the game just sucks. MMORPGs like everquest and doac are making a killing using the same business model because their games are mildly interesting.
  • Re:It's boring! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:31PM (#5232680)
    And I can even get laid in the real world!

    And another slashdotter realizes the tragic difference between theory and practice.
  • by dead sun ( 104217 ) <aranach @ g m ail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:32PM (#5232683) Homepage Journal
    This is why I will never buy a game like The Sims Online, Ultima Online, Everquest, whatever. I refuse to pay a fee monthly to ensure that I'm able to play a game that I already shelled out for, for a couple reasons.

    First, I don't have hours and hours to play games in the first place. I've got homework to do, college to pay for, and then afterwards a little time to unwind. Even at say $10 a month for a single online subscription game I might play at most a few hours of it a month. That's about all the more I get to play most games now. The hourly cost isn't that high, but the total cost over a year is obscene, $170 including purchase cost for maybe 36 hours of gameplay. Sorry.

    Second, I can find an abundance of quality entertainment, online multiplayer even, other places for free, or included in the purchase cost of the game. Battle.Net seems to be working out alright, though I'm not a huge fan of playing with some of the jerks on there. I'd rather set up a LAN and play that way, or prearrange an Battle.Net room. Otherwise there are tons of MUDs and other free games out there as well. Those have kept me entertained for longer periods of time than some games I've purchased.

    Maybe when I'm making more money than I currently am trapped in college I'll feel differently. Right now, however, I don't even toss subscription games a second look. For some reason I don't think I'm going to change my mind lightly either.

  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:33PM (#5232692) Journal
    The only person I know who plays the Sims is my mother. I remember mentioning Sims Online to her, and she didnt get the point. She didnt see why she needed to 'compete' against other people to see whos the best person. She kills her sims probably a half hour after bringing them to life, she just enjoys watching them run around and make toast and whatnot. She does ICQ and chats online with people who play scrabble and other mom-type stuff. She just doesnt get the point of Sims Online.

    My point is, this game is popular because it's merely a good old distraction. It's completely uncompetitive and not really goal-oriented, at least to most who play it. You just screw around and watch the people do stuff. It just doesnt fit into the MMORPG genre.

    Add that to the fact that it just comes off like another in the long line of Sims cash grabs (they have a whole new game/expansion pack bi-weekly it seems). After plunking down $50 on "The Sims get New Pants(tm)" people get wary. The dead horse has been beaten beyond recognition.

    Plus it's just a boring game to most traditional 'gamers' in the first place.
  • by Viewsonic ( 584922 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:33PM (#5232696)
    My girlfriend and two of my other friends are hopelessly addicted to the Sims games. They have bought every expansion pack there is, downloaded every little add-on, talk about it non-stop. one of them would even go near the beta I offered to download for them. (I was trying it out for kicks)


    Because they knew they would have to pay per month for it. Everytime I talk abotu EverQuest, they go off saying i'm an idiot for paying for a game I already payed for. They however, don't know what goes into making a MASSIVE online game and the monthly costs the developers and publishers have to keep paying to keep the servers and bandwidth alive. They could care less, they would just play it if it was free and that is it.

    I have concluded that the type of people who play the Sim games, or Myst, or other simple yet addicting games are just the wrong type of people who will simply NOT pay to play these online games. MMORPGs like EverQuest, DAOC, etc have a very technical and geeky and hardcore following who will stop at nothing to slay dragons all day long. To them 10 bux is NOTHING to be a hero with a bunch of other people. Simtype people could care less, they will play a game between watching TV shows, where EQ junkies will just not ever watch TV ever again. They might even be embarrased to be seen online, where the RPG people who dress up in costumes for fan faires feel they are having a blast living their lives.

    I expect to see Star Wars Galaxies to be a mixed bag. I think it will be popular because those some AD&D RPG junkies will dig into it, and that alone will be enough to support it, but on the other hand, I think overall the typical "Yah, star wars rox" people who don get into RPGs will stay very far away from it. (Also have 2 die hard Star Wars fans who refuse to even try SWG when it ships, they love online games, but again, they dont get into techincal RPG details, and most importantly, THEY REFUSE TO PAY FOR A GAME MORE THAN THE INITIAL COST.) Sales will probably be about half of what they exepect with that as well, but it will STILL be a success with the geek clubs subscribing.

  • by mcjulio ( 68237 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:34PM (#5232705)
    I can't figure out why EA ever thought this was a good idea. For me, 9/10ths of the appeal of a subscription game is being someone, and being somewhere, that I can't be in real life. Spending 3 hours to earn another bar in my "Strength" meter in order to keep up with my friends is completely worthless, unless I can take that extra bar and do something cool with it.

    If the only cool thing I can do is get a slightly better job as a 3rd string linebacker and bring home $10 more/week to flush away on virtual McDs, there's no way I'd waste the time.

    That's the irony of the Sims Online: in order to be fun, they'd have to do away with all the things that made the Sims (offline) a success.
  • by realdpk ( 116490 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:41PM (#5232767) Homepage Journal
    You aren't limited to 36 hours of gameplay. And in EQ, that wouldn't get you very far, in any case..

    Consider tho, that $170 for 36 hours of gameplay is ~$4.72/hour. Pretty cheap compared to many alternatives. If you play 100 hours in that year, there ya go, $1.70/hour. Gets better the more you play!! ;)
  • Snow Crashing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TexTex ( 323298 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:49PM (#5232829)
    It's a thought that The Sims Online shows us how far we've got to go to accept a true virtual world, in which the point is simply to exist.

    The projection of avatars and worlds of Stephenson and Gibson weren't based as a game of any sort, but an environment, and The Sims Online might be trying too hard to be both. As The Sims alone...it's not really a game as much as a management simulator for life. And existing in multiplayer mode, I'm surprised people expected a lot more out of it that a graphical chat environment.

    If you read the Amazon reviews, they're split with people either loving it or completely hating it. I'd guess the ones who enjoy it are also the ones who find minutes and hours slipping away in AOL chat rooms. It's not necessarily the same people who play Everquest or any other MMORPG.

    I'm not sure The Sims Online is supposed to be a fanatic success to the level everyone expected, but I wouldn't count it completely out yet. It's possible that it holds early groundwork towards a universal, easy-access virtual environment...kinda like AOL back in the early 90s.

  • by Flamerule ( 467257 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:58PM (#5232900)
    EA, sadly, has a history of trying to make MMOG and failing. UO is the exception, but then again, EA bought Origin after UO was in production.
    The problem EA is suffering from is one of its own making, and it is far more pervasive and damaging than merely MMOGs.

    Reading the linked NYTimes article gives a good idea of their mindset and "strategy" for the future. They mention the idea of the Sims Online and EA.com as a "third arm" to join the first and second arms of their PC and console game empires, respectively. Presumably, they think they can build a gigantic new revenue stream by tapping the great, mythical "Joe Average" and convincing him to pay to play casual, very non-hardcore games like solitaire, chess, and now the Sims Online, over the Internet.

    For those /.-ers unfamiliar with EA.com, it appears for all intents and purposes to be a relic of the dot-com age: a couple years ago, EA decided to turn their website into something very close to Yahoo Games, instead of merely serving information, support, etc., about their PC/console games. It turned by stomach at the time to see what EA was turning itself into, when it had just killed Origin, the greatest or certainly one of the greatest PC game developers in history, which EA had bought out some time before. Ultima Online fans will remember that when EA destroyed Origin, it simultaneously axed hopes for a UO 2, instead deciding to wring the game for cash by releasing low-quality expansion packs.

    EA has been a behemoth for quite some time, but the debilitating effects on the developers it holds have never been more evident. Take Westwood, formerly an innovating, renowned game developer. Since its purchase by EA, Westwood has totally lost all vestiges of its former greatness, and churned out almost nothing but (largely uninteresting) rehashes and reworkings of its Command & Conquer series. Witness Earth & Beyond, its MMORPG, set in space -- I believe they briefly discuss its lack of success in one of the linked articles. I beta-tested the game for a brief period, before I grew disgusted and wiped it from my hard drive. Suffice it to say EaB was not the space MMOG so many SF fans like myself had been waiting for; you can easily see just what was so disappointing about it by Googling for reviews, or noting EaB's presence as a runner up for Gamespot's Most Disappointing PC game of the year. (Gamespot's yearly awards were posted in a /. story a couple weeks back.)

    I think the pattern is evident: EA these days, and since years back, has been all about its yearly releases of console sport games -- Madden 2000, Madden 2001, Madden 2002, ad nauseam -- and relatively mindless action games. EA is focused on nothing but profit margin and expansion, and while their strategy has certainly succeeded up to this point (they are by far the largest game publisher in the world), they are certainly not a company that puts out interesting and innovative games. Their wretched strategy to hook the average person with lowest-common-denominator online time-sinks is degrading, and I'm glad to see that their massive investment into Sims Online, and into expanding this degrading and disgusting revenue source, are turning into a complete failure.

    EA is not a source of good things in the gaming industry. I can't call their total dedication to the bottom line at the expense of quality "evil", but I know it will never produce the superb kind of games that people like Sid Meier, Warren Spector, Chris Taylor, etc., continue to create at small development companies.

  • No sex (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:21PM (#5233132)
    Unlike the home version, you cannot patch the on-line game to allow nudity and there is no sex. Did they really think the a game would sell without these things? They need to build a privacy mode that is either unrestricted or patchable. May be a peer to peer link for certain areas.

  • by Wynns ( 235657 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:22PM (#5233138)
    Wrote this in an email to a non-gaming friend this morning (so excuse the lack of proper grammer) and thought I'd share it here as well since I think someone who's reading here who doesn't have a background in gaming might find some nugget of info in it...

    kind of a bad article i think. it makes the bad estimates of EA look like
    the industry doesn't have a market...

    "...many in the video game industry wonder whether online games will ever
    find a large following."

    a large following isn't the question, it's finding the right game to tap
    into it. there's over 400k people playing EQ alone. there's probably 10
    others that have 250k each. all of those people play at least $10/month
    to play. the market is there, EA is just having a hard time compelling
    people to play online. here's the thing... EA has "the Sims" that is
    competing with "the Sims: Online" at the same time. people aren't signing
    up to play online when the non-MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) version is
    just about as fun. EA keeps releasing new content for the single player
    version, so there's really no need, if you're a fan, to play the online
    version. they kinda messed up i think.

    most other MMO games, you can *only* get the experience online. not so
    with the sims. not only that, but the whole genre of what the Sims is
    trying to do online is brand new. it's not a "questing" game. it's just
    like a large graphical chatroom where you can do other stuff.

    the market for online version is odd too. other games (like EQ and such)
    try and grab the hardcore gamers. basically, young males that are into
    gaming. the sims market is much more broad, lots of ladies, housewives,
    casual gamers. these aren't the typical people who are going to start
    spending $$ and hours online.

    the last thing is probably that the game in itself is kind of flawed. not
    flawed really, but maybe it doesn't suit itself to longterm play. they've
    sold a lot of copies of the game and the expansions because it's *really*
    fun to play for a short amount of time, then it gets old. people pick up
    the expansions because they're really fun. this makes the sales numbers
    look good and tricks EA into thinking that everyone out there is playing
    the game nonstop anyway. the truth is that people have put the game away
    on the shelf for the last three months and haven't given it a second
    thought. it's not that it wasn't fun, but the longevity isn't there.
    but, people get excited for some new content and go pick up the expansion
    to get a quick fun hit of the game again. then, after they've seen all
    the new widgets and whatnots, they shelve it again.

    what EA is going to end up doing is having to add content all the time to
    the online version. give people a new fix every month of new graphics,
    new items, new functionality. that's one of the advantages of being
    online anyway, and most games are moving to that model (Asheron's Call was
    the first to do it) once they start doing that, people will stick around,
    or at least come back every couple of months to renew their account to see
    what's changed.
  • by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:24PM (#5233158) Homepage
    The problem here is that you are assuming that it is the monthly fee keeping people out. That is simply not true for most people.

    The real problem is that the game is boring. And this is coming from someone who not only played The Sims for two years, and bought every expansion pack (I don't have "Unleashed" as I stopped playing after "Vacation" came out) and even ran a popular (and expensive) website for two years! While The Sims is boring to a lot of people, The Sims Online is boring to almost everybody! I don't know of ANY of my The Sims friends (real one, you know, meatsacks) who even care about TSO.

    Making it cheaper by stuffing it full of ads (Sweet Merciful Jesus! Is there anywhere we can escape the endless onslaught of advertisers?) will not solve anything.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"