‘SimCity’: Big sales numbers despite online backlash

March 18, 2013 | 4:16 p.m.
Disaster strikes the new "SimCity" (Maxis / Electronic Arts).

Disaster strikes the new “SimCity.” (Maxis / Electronic Arts)

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


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11 Responses to ‘SimCity’: Big sales numbers despite online backlash

  1. Disrespected says:

    Well SINCE it was pure marketing Hype the entire time and SINCE it was by "what WAS" a loyal fan base and SINCE EA did not allow Refunds – the gross affect may be more dramatic for EA. Fool me once thing. In OTHER words: I won't be buying again from EA ANYTIME soon.

    As a result, I believe we ALSO need a reduced risk law implemented that FORCES these companies that trick the consumer into purchasing something that clearly is broken and wasn't what they led us to believe it was.

    • AnnoyedAtEnablers says:

      If you were dumb enough to buy from them this time around, you'll be dumb enough to do it again if the name of the game is pretty enough. You've proven yourself unable to learn.

  2. Anon says:

    Where are the refund request numbers? Didn't think so.

    I could sell 2 month old painted turds as gold nuggets and just report sales numbers to make good impressions too.

  3. jason says:

    EA is doing this, that, saying this, saying that, giving away this, giving away that…. All I want is a refund. Not trying to be spiteful but not going to be buying EA for a while, if ever. Companies like this need to taught lessons so they can either change for the better or be consumed by other, better companies. Can’t get one refund after purchasing several other EA ill prepared games.

    I know a lot of people that disputed the charges with their banks. maybe we’ll see how being short sighted will affect them.

  4. @jaredheath says:

    Do not be misled by numbers heavily inflated by pre-sales that could not be refunded.

  5. coolstorybro says:

    the backlash was after people bought the game. big sale isn’t even related to the backlash.

  6. Sunny says:

    This completely ignores the fact that EA did not allow refunds to online purchases. Had they not forced consumers to stick with a broken and not as advertised game the numbers would have been far lower. Hopefully, many people who got burned this time wont be back for more. Diablo III is also a poor comparison, since that is a game that actually benefits from online play. Simulation games do not need to be online. It just doesn't make sense.

  7. @BWhited07 says:

    How about we stop talking about the server issues and start talking about the game breaking bugs in Simcity? The server issues weeks ago seems to be overlooking that the game was not ready for release besides the lack of stable servers. To be honest, they haven't released a patch that has fixed a single thing. It has been 2 weeks and we still don't have leaderboards, game filters, the traffic is crazy, service vehicles break with the bulldozer tool and city fall apart at a certain population. Did I forget to mention sometimes your friends show Simcity, sometimes they're never there? We're tired of waiting for the game we thought we were purchasing. It's sad to see so many new people who purchase this game ask, "Why can't I do this or that?" on the official Simcity forums, and the Simcity HQ forums.

  8. Jeff says:

    Actually those sales numbers are pretty lame since the last big Maxis games met or beat them. Four years ago. Spore rivaled those sales in the midst of an outright community revolt, and Sims 3 managed to sell more in half the time. This reboot was "simified" to try and mainstream it. Instead, it didn't do much better than EA's last DRM fiasco, Spore. So, yeah, hardly impressive numbers at all. Even more pathetic that EA's network couldn't even handle a million players without dying. It took millions to put the hurt on Blizzard's with Diablo. Lame…

  9. Mike says:

    I loved Sim City 4 and was looking forward to purchasing this new version. That plan is on indefinite hold. Come back and tell us what your sales numbers are in two months.

  10. asdf says:

    lol who still buys games from EA, fuck that loser.

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