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In Wake of Poor Reviews, Amazon Yanks SimCity Download 511

An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from Geek.com: "In what must be a big blow for EA and Maxis, Amazon has stopped selling download copies of the just released SimCity. The game has at time of writing received 833 reviews on Amazon, and has an average rating of just one star. That's because 740 of those are one star reviews. Only 20 people gave it 5 stars. There's few better ways to gauge how a game has been received, and this is pretty damning as to how EA has handled the launch."
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In Wake of Poor Reviews, Amazon Yanks SimCity Download

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  • Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @05:56PM (#43109755)

    Not sure if this is good for the PC games industry, or bad. It's good, because games with bad DRM shouldn't succeed. It's bad because I like PC games, and want the industry to focus on PC games again.

    • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:11PM (#43110033) Journal

      In other news, a sequel to Planescape: Torment got funded on Kickstarter in 6 hours flat. It looks like the good guys are finally winning for once.

      • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:17PM (#43110111) Homepage Journal

        Yah, I don't know why this story was tagged "failure", it's actually an epic win. Not for EA, but for everyone else.

        • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 2starr ( 202647 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:24PM (#43110211) Homepage
          The problem will be if they simply see the failure as not having enough server infrastructure to handle the load as opposed to seeing the whole online DRM model as being a bad idea.
          • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by sirsnork ( 530512 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:50PM (#43110527)

            It's EA, they don't care about either of these things. If they did they would have actually fixed the capacity issues before launch. This isn't the first time this has happened for an EA launch and it won't be the last

            Why pay for more servers for launch, when you can put in as many as you'll need to run under normal load once it settles down and lose so few customers that it won't even make a blip on the graph.Especially as the ones who get punished are obviously the "hardcore" ones who will just keep coming back, even after bitching the whole time when the servers can't handle the load

            Seriously, the Oceana launch that happened today is having exactly the same problems.

            At this point this is what you get if you buy EA games. Give it a week and it might be working enough to play, give it a month and it might be reliable

            • Yea... I give a month for new releases to iron out the bugs on PC games, I've never gotten a game that didn't have substantial patching by the 1 month mark. It kind of sucks, but it seems the trend has been to make the games as simple and big as possible while leaving quality to the beta (SCII), or the community (skyrim).

            • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by doublebackslash ( 702979 ) <doublebackslash@gmail.com> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @07:41PM (#43111001)

              Amazon Elastic Compute.

              No excuses.

            • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @08:01PM (#43111207)

              And give it three years and they will shut off the servers and ask you to buy the sequel, so it can all happen again!

            • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @08:53PM (#43111697)

              "Seriously, the Oceana launch that happened today is having exactly the same problems..."

              That is because this is NOT about DRM--this is about killing the Used PC Game market. The server connection is to verify first-install. After that, the game will not work on any other machine (or be whittled down to Demo functionality). That being said, all EA PC games will have this "feature" from this time forward as they and every other major game developer/publisher are all involved in a major assault on First Sale doctrine.

              Corporate Gaming is dying...don't throw it a life-preserver by purchasing their bullshit. There are a TON of Emulators and Kickstart projects out there--give THOSE folks your money.

              • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @09:13PM (#43111855)
                Except that there are still a lot of truly -fun- and awesome commercial games out there. Yeah, there's a bunch of crap commercial games out there (and a lot of crap indie games) but a properly done commercial game tends to outclass even the greatest indie games simply because they can afford the talent, hardware and polish that indie games will never have.

                Wake me up when there's an indie equivalent to Fire Emblem (and no, Battle for Wesnoth is not the same thing...) or indeed RPGs in general.
          • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:52PM (#43110561) Homepage Journal

            Isn't that the same thing? DRM causes excessive server load and extremely poor player experience, masses of negative reviews. DRM costs EA sales, and they only way to fix it is to throw more money at the problem.

            Better yet there is no way to recover from all those negative reviews now. Even if they fixed it tomorrow they would remain, and the chances of 800+ people bothering to write positive reviews is nil. The game is tainted forever, the disaster unrecoverable. Well, that isn't entirely true, they could release a DRM free version, that is the only thing that can turn it around.

          • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @07:36PM (#43110947)

            Online DRM won't fail while we still have a giant fan base who supports DRM. They would rather divide the world into good guys with DRM and bad guys with DRM instead of realizing that everyone with DRM is a bad guy (even Valve). When people think that some DRM is ok and even desirable, they make the war to defend consumer rights much more difficult.

        • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @09:54PM (#43112165)

          I've hated EA ever since back in 1985 when I bought a game for my C64 that hammered my 1541 disk drive out of alignment. It took about 5 minutes to load and you could fry an egg on the drive's cover by the time it was finished. I finally got the copy protection stripped out and it loaded in about 24 seconds just as smooth as silk. I haven't bought a game from those fuckers since. I can't believe they're still in business the way they've screwed over their customers and they are still at it today.

        • Re:Not sure... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday March 08, 2013 @05:00AM (#43113925)

          As I pointed out yesterday in another thread, EA have scrapped Dead Space 4 because DS3 sold poorly.

          The reason it sold poorly was because of microtransactions, I'd like to think this means microtransactions aren't going to sneak more prominently into games too now as a result, but I'm not sure it works like that. EA's scrapping of Dead Space 4 seems to imply that they don't think microtransactions were the problem, and that it was the franchise that was at fault, which is silly, because that's blatantly false, it was entirely the effect microtransactions had on the game that stopped people buying it.

          So yes it's nice to see bad ideas fail, but don't assume that companies necessarily recognise that the games failed because of the bad ideas.

          That's not to say this wont select out such stupid companies in the long run, but we're nowhere near yet.

      • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

        In other news, a sequel to Planescape: Torment got funded on Kickstarter in 6 hours flat. It looks like the good guys are finally winning for once.

        Here's hoping they'll set a new record

        They have more than doubled the initial $900,000 goal ($1,903,586 as of now), after less than 2 days on kickstarter.

      • Not even a whole day and it's at 1.91 million USD.

    • by Xphile101361 ( 1017774 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:24PM (#43110209)
      The tree of Innovation must be refreshed at times with the blood Developers and Publishers.
    • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:26PM (#43110233)

      Not sure if this is good for the PC games industry, or bad. It's good, because games with bad DRM shouldn't succeed. It's bad because I like PC games, and want the industry to focus on PC games again.

      Stop, just stop. You're completely missing the point. The point is that EA deceived consumers into thinking it was a single-player game. It's not, there is no single player mode, so no offline mode is possible. DRM is a moot point, it's like bitching about having to go online to play a single player instance in World of Warcraft.

      YA, EA sucks, they fucked this all up big time. Yes, they could and should have made an offline single player mode, but they didn't. They chose to make a game where you cannot EVER truly play a completely isolated single-player game mode... even in the "solo mode" your city is influenced by other players in an indirect fashion.

    • Re:Not sure... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:49PM (#43110521)

      Not sure if this is good for the PC games industry, or bad. It's good, because games with bad DRM shouldn't succeed. It's bad because I like PC games, and want the industry to focus on PC games again.

      This is good for PC gaming, because it means strategies like this will not succeed in the marketplace. The best outcome of this would be EA losing a ton of money on SimCity. Hopefully EA withdraws from the PC gaming market and focuses on only producing console titles, that would also be a win. EA is not a friend to PC gamers, we don't need them. PC gaming is much, much larger than EA. PC gaming will succeed because of companies like Valve, and because of the developers and fans who use things like Kickstarter to get their games funded (speaking of which, where the hell is Star Command?). PC gaming will succeed in spite of companies like EA, not because of them. I would love it if companies who start their game design by including DRM left the PC market, it will become a bigger market for the developers that want to make great games.

    • by Nyder ( 754090 )

      Not sure if this is good for the PC games industry, or bad. It's good, because games with bad DRM shouldn't succeed. It's bad because I like PC games, and want the industry to focus on PC games again.

      It's good all the way around.

      What it shows is that PC users won't put up with really stupid ass DRM and poorly managed launches.

      What surprises me is that Amazon would pull the listing, even with bad reviews, any sale is sale.

      I didn't read the article, barely glanced at the summary. Simcity was cool in the 80's & early 90's, but now? I doubt it. If people are going to bring any old franchise back from the past, X-wing and Tie-fighter would rock...

    • Re:Not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @07:57PM (#43111151)

      It's also good that it happened to EA and not a smaller company. EA has a better chance of absorbing the loss and learning from it. Not that this is likely, but I'm an optimist like that.

    • Sure, Not (Score:4, Insightful)

      by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @09:29PM (#43112003) Journal

      "It's bad because I like PC games, and want the industry to focus on PC games again."

      I call Troll. This is all bad and everyone knows it. There is no 'PC gaming industry'...the Personal Computer (PC) is a type of platform for consumer games.

      The problem is the notion of requiring an internet connection to use. The problem is FEE PER USE.

      DRM is bad for *any* industry in its current usage. Sure there is no law against properly implementing DRM in the right situation so not to harm your users, but that virtually never happens. Once DRM creeps into a type of media it is historically resulted in anti-user DRM implementations.

      Lamenting something like 'PC games' is the exact wrong thing to notice. Lament FEE PER USE as industry standard across all gaming platforms.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @10:27PM (#43112397)

      As a sucker who bought this game, let me share my two days experience with it.

      Half the time the game won't even launch - It briefly flashes "Servers not available" then the text changes to "checking for update" with a progress bar 100% full. If you just let it sit there, nothing happens. Ever. What you need to do is alt-F4, and then try again until the server is back up. Once the server is up, you get to launch the game.

      There are only two servers per most regions, and only one for Oceania. I signed up for West Coast, US #2, correctly guessing it would be available more often than US #1. By day 2, West Coast #2 was stuck on "Busy" so I switched to Oceanea

      EA has been promoting the fact that the servers aren't region locked, but it seems like a stupid move given the game releases in those regions today and tomorrow, but they're already full with overflow players from north america....

      I did not play Sim City as a child and so don't have any sentimental attachment to it - I enjoy the game but find the multiplayer experiance oddly silent. I was expecting voice chat, as is normal in multiplayer-emphasized games but rarely have I gotten so much as a chat response. Because literally every game is hosted online (single player regions are just locked games), EA had to use asynchronous communications - Functionally when you send a written chat, it has to be delivered to the other regional players in a periodic region update so chat messages can sometimes lag 2 or 3 minutes before showing up.

        Now granted, I didn't go into this with a full origin friends list so it's been all pubbies, but in 7 games with 20+ players I've gotten one response to a basic greeting, that's a terrible ratio and I'm pretty charming.

      The real kick to the shins is that most of the time the game just doesn't work. I've got a DVD in my drive that says Sim-CIty on it, and I just want to get back to Myrtle City - my highly successful singleplayer region on the Oceania server and continue work on New Wageslavedom, the adjacent settlement I'm also mayor of.

      Unfortunately the Oceania server has just filled up and after giving me the longest loading screen in the world, literally 10 minutes, it says my city isn't available right now.

      Don't buy this game

  • by dingonix ( 997394 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @05:57PM (#43109773)
    Any other big releases with always on drm that actually are playable in the first few weeks that you can remember?... I can't remember any such titles recently.
    • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:04PM (#43109903) Homepage

      Alegedly it's not "just" DRM. EA has stated that their servers are handling some portion of the gameplay itself.

      Anyway, it sucks that this game probably won't be playable after the servers inevitably go offline in a few years. Guess there's no room for nostalgia in the world of cloud computing.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:09PM (#43109987)

        Alegedly it's not "just" DRM. EA has stated that their servers are handling some portion of the gameplay itself.

        They are. It's actually pretty damn good, when it's working. It's funny, because I didn't even know people were having problems until the /. article yesterday. I was too busy enjoying the game to see what other people thought about it.

      • The servers are handling a part of the game which is not that important. That is: The global marked placed. And while it is an interesting feature it is in no way vital to the system.

        And I know this because I bought the game, and managed to play half an hour with absolut no internet connection and it worked fine. But then I wanted to change region, and I have been unable to play since. But once you get a game started you can normally play until you want to change to a new city. (Or the game crashes, or you look the wrong way).


      • What is the reason for running aspects of effectively single player game play on a server?

        Yep DRM.

    • by ddd0004 ( 1984672 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:38PM (#43110377)

      Maybe we aren't giving EA enough credit. Maybe they discovered the best DRM was to make a total crap game that no one would even attempt pirate.

  • by oic0 ( 1864384 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @05:57PM (#43109777)
    I bought the sucker yesterday and it doesn't work at all. Can't get past the launcher. If only I had just downloaded the pirated version I would have a working game.
    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:03PM (#43109873) Homepage

      The Fine Summary misses most of the point. They could have simply copied the second paragraph from the Fine Article:

      A note has been posted by Amazon underneath the “Currently unavailable” message. It states that many customers are having connection issues and they have no idea when it will be fixed. As we reported earlier, EA is bringing new servers online over the next 2 days to try and solve the problem, and Maxis is fixing bugs as quickly as they can, but server architecture issues are hampering them.

    • How are you going to pirate it when it is a client+server model? All your cities live on EA's servers and there's no local saving/offline play. The only way it will ever be pirated is if the developers left some hidden local saving in it that management told them to disable, or if someone reverse engineers the network protocol and writes a server for it.

      • by TheSunborn ( 68004 ) <.tiller. .at. .daimi.au.dk.> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:15PM (#43110087)

        All you really need to implement to pirate the game, is a service which can load/save the game. And then you can just return fixed values for the global marked place. Then you have a perfectly working pirated game.

        I don't know how complicated the load/save thing is, but If we are luckey, save just serialize the data and send it to the server, and load just get the same serialized stream back. If they do it that way, making a pirate save function should be rather simple. They did it for settlers 7.

    • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:05PM (#43109921)

      I haven't had a single problem since I played the first time the night of the launch.

      All the problems I've run into are simply the shitty game, itself, with all the problems everyone has already covered a thousand times over (social, regional stuff, tiny cities, crappy road system, inability to build an all inclusive city, etc).

      After playing for a bit, I wanted to reset my city and start from scratch, again. I could not find any way to do it, whatsoever.

      Eventually I got tired of it (probably about five hours worth of play, into it) and I don't know that I'll ever go back to it. I wasted my money and I regret it. I buy a lot of games and put up with a lot of let-downs as just part of being a gamer, but this one felt like a particular waste of money. Especially after all these years of being excited that someday we'd eventually have a new awesome Sim City game with all that having it on modern hardware would offer (which, as it turns out, is nothing).

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:09PM (#43110001)

      Return it.

      Do it now before you can't. It is broken and you should get a refund.

  • Too bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @05:59PM (#43109805) Homepage Journal

    Too bad they made all the money from the idiots who pre-ordered. Never-ever-ever-ever pre-order a game, unless you don't mind getting literally nothing in return. Uninformed markets are broken markets.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:00PM (#43109819)

    I really want to buy SimCity, it looks pretty awesome, but I'm not going to allow EA to treat me like a thief and I'm certainly not going to pay them for the privilege.

  • DRM (Score:5, Informative)

    by knetcomp ( 1611179 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:01PM (#43109835)

    Use always-on, internet-requring DRM they said. It will work fine, they said.

    Sadly, EA will not admit DRM is the problem, they will just attribute it to "overwhelming demand".

  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:07PM (#43109955) Journal

    The game has at time of writing received 833 reviews on Amazon, and has an average rating of just one star. That's because 740 of those are one star reviews. Only 20 people gave it 5 stars. There's few better ways to gauge how a game has been received...

    A star rating on Amazon is one of the best ways to gauge a game's reception? On the contrary, I'd say the fact that 20 people rated a game that lacks basic functionality as worthy of five stars is an indication that the star system is ineffective and fails to tell you much of anything. Were those 20 people rating the graphics of the splash screen? We're they rating what they imagined the game would be like once they could save? Were they purists who believe saves are a form of cheating, and they welcome this new, more-realistic gameplay?

    Actual discussion of what is good and bad is and always will be the best way to gauge a product's reception.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:09PM (#43109993)

    Another failure, i wonder when they'll learn. Sad part is Maxis is the one that's gonna end up getting hurt. City size is a joke (see SimTown). Can't actually save (thats half the fun!). No map editor (really!?). Dumbed down mechanics. Oh, and the kicker, ALWAYS ON DRM bahaha. No thanks. Did you see Amazon yanked it because it received so many bad reviews?

  • by Whatsisname ( 891214 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:09PM (#43109997) Homepage

    Wasn't there a similar backlash over Spore, another EA title?

    What I want to know is why people still give money to EA when they pull these sorts of shenanigans.

  • by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:57PM (#43110631)

    Seriously - they're like the Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee [slashdot.org]

    Here are some choice examples of 5-star reviews [amazon.com]:
    "Got me off my video game addiction!"
    "Like Russian Roulette, slot machines and slicing your wrists all in one!"
    "Great Loading and Queue screen simulator!"

  • Peeved. (Score:4, Informative)

    by jo7hs2 ( 884069 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @07:09PM (#43110745) Homepage
    I preordered a physical copy several weeks ago. I was never able to play the beta, because Amazon delayed my access code until it had ended. I have still not played the game, despite owning a physical copy. Tuesday, the game spent two hours completely downloading itself all over again, despite the physical copy. I was unable to join any servers in the US. It them refused to create a city once I was able to join a server in Europe. I gave up. Tried again Wednesday, still could not creat a city. Today, all servers were busy. Eventually got through, but was only allowed to play the tutorial, and about two minutes in the servers dropped out. Then back to unable to create city. Frankly, I knew this was coming. I hate EA for what they've gradually done to Maxis since the acquisition. I knew always-on DRM and shunting the region math onto the cloud was going to mean connection issues. What I didn't fully know is that my saves are on the server, and I cannot even create a game if the server is down. I love SimCity...I can remember many hours spend with SimCity (the original), SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, and SimCity 4...and this looks like a welcome update. Shame I cannot play it.
  • http://www.gamechup.com/ea-refuses-to-refund-user-for-simcity-threatens-account-ban/ [gamechup.com] Very interesting chat-log... customer purchases the game which doesn't work, EA puts out a press release telling them that they will issue refunds, customer service associate tells customer to pound salt! Like he said... I hope this goes viral!
  • by razorshark ( 2843829 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @08:08PM (#43111267)

    I think there needs to be some clarification as to the nature of why the game thinks it needs to be always online. Some people have suggested that ALL the computing and simulation logic happens on EA servers, but this isn't true.

    It has been shown that if you lose a net connection/connection to the server, the game will continue to run offline for about 20 minutes. During this time, YOUR city will continue to simulate properly. However, neighboring cities being developed by other people will freeze in time and be held in this state until such time that your connection is reestablished (if it doesn't before the timeout, the game session ends). Once it reconnects, the state of your neighbors is synced with your city and hence any changes to your neighbors' cities during the time you were offline will immediately be represented.

    If you connection drops, your city lives in isolation. Once it reconnects, it returns to the world and is affected by the effects of your neighbors. If you happen to be developing a city next to a tard who is polluting like crazy, your city will suffer the effects. That's the whole purpose of the always-online feature - to provide this MMO-style relationship between players. BUT, given the game runs fine with your city if the connection drops, this is bullshit because it means it should be trivial to enable the player to just play on their own.

    The simulation logic is there, available on the installed game. EA just doesn't feel it's worth having an offline mode despite it basically being readily set up for it - it thinks being interconnected with other players who might be dicks and ruin your city is much more important.

  • It's not that bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrBear ( 63712 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @09:29PM (#43112001)

    Yeesh.. at least there's some good reviews out there.. for instance this one.

    http://www.jonathancresswell.co.uk/2013/03/review-simcity/ [jonathancresswell.co.uk]

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin