Despite the backlash over “SimCity’s” rampant and game-breaking server issues, Electronic Arts announced Monday that the title has already sold more than 1.1 million copies worldwide since its release two weeks ago.
The launch of the latest entry in the Maxis-developed city simulation series was marred by a near-universal inability for players to even play the game, an issue that sparked outrage among consumers and even led Amazon to temporarily halt sales of the game.
“SimCity,” which requires online access to play, is by its nature dependent on stable server support – support that EA was unable to provide during the launch window. As part of ongoing efforts to stabilize the servers, and win back players, EA increased server capacity by 120%, issued a fix to the servers that removed achievements, leaderboards and other features, and also announced Monday that owners of the game would be gifted a free copy of one of eight titles for their troubles.
Fans have particularly railed against the lack of an offline mode to compensate for possible connectivity outages, a notion that Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw said was rejected early on by the development team.
“Always-Connected is a big change from SimCities of the past. It didn’t come down as an order from corporate and it isn’t a clandestine strategy to control players. It’s fundamental to the vision we had for this SimCity,” she said in a blog post Friday.
EA’s press release celebrating the game’s sales numbers made no mention of the connectivity issues, though there is a mention of the game contributing to a record-breaking number of concurrent users on the publisher’s online distribution service, Origin, at 1.3 million.
Following quickly on the heels of the sales announcement, EA said its chief executive, John Riccitiello, would step down, with 1991-2007 EA CEO Larry Probst taking over as executive chairman. A search for a new CEO is underway.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and after six years I feel it is the right time for me pass the baton and let new leadership take the Company into its next phase of innovation and growth,” Riccitiello said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal obtained Riccitiello’s farewell letter, in which he said financial results were behind the decision. “My decision to leave EA is really all about my accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year. It currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued to the Street, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. And for that, I am 100 percent accountable.”
Riccitiello’s departure follows a series of missteps, from the expensive underperformance of the Star Wars MMO “The Old Republic” to a steady, continued loss in revenues. And several controversies, from “SimCity” to the use of Osama bin Laden-themed maps in “Medal of Honor: Warfighter,” have eroded the company’s standing with die-hard fans.
The “SimCity” launch debacle comes as the industry moves toward online-dependent games, and the risks that follow suit. The high-profile launch of “Diablo III” in 2012 was similarly marred by overloaded servers locking out players, with developer Blizzard Entertainment quickly apologizing to incensed players for the creaky online infrastructure.
But if the sales of “SimCity” and “Diablo III,” which has sold more than 10 million copies, are any indication, players will have to speak with their wallets, not with their post-launch complaints, if they want to entirely avoid similar inconveniences in the future.
– Morgan Little | @mlittledc