Nothing captures the complete and utter stupidity of EA's launch of Simcity quite like its commercial. In it, one of the guys from the inexplicably popular and unbelievably unwatchable Comedy Central show Workaholics stumbles his way through the same kind of dumb pseudo-comedy found on his show. As a commercial, it's painful and embarrassing to sit through. As a metaphor, however, it's a perfect reflection of how the company has handled everything up until this point.
Let's start at the beginning: Always-on DRM. This particular form of digital rights management is so despised by gamers that it's almost universally condemned. Part of the reason for that is the mistaken belief among game designers that everyone has access to reliable internet (some of us like to play games when the internet goes down, you know), and the other part is that it's notoriously buggy. Every game with always-on DRM, from Assassin's Creed 2 to Diablo 3, has been hit with various issues ranging from disappearing saves to a simple inability to play, even when properly connected. EA must have thought that Simcity would fare better.
It didn't. At launch, many people found themselves unable to play the game they had bought thanks to server issues that led to wait times. Those who actually managed to get in to play found that not only was the game smaller (and buggier) than previous iterations, but saves would sometimes disappear. The whole thing was a mess, which led to an inevitable backlash—as of this writing, the game's user rating on Amazon is one and a half stars out of five. This isn't one or two bad reviews weighing it down; 1,890 of the 2,190 customer reviews rate it 1 star out of 5, the lowest possible rating. Almost nineteen-hundred people, 86.3% of all reviews, gave it the worst allowable rating. Even worse, while those who purchased from customer-friendly places like Amazon were provided with refunds, others were less fortunate, being refused their refunds and facing threats like having their accounts banned should they attempt to get around that by going through their bank.
The justification for all of this madness was that Simcity had complex server-side computations that required the game to be constantly online in order to function. The game, it was said, simply couldn't work without whatever was happening over the internet. That turned out to be a complete lie, and it was soon discovered that enabling offline play was as simple as changing a single line of the code (though this didn't allow for saving).
EA CEO John Riccitiello soon thereafter announced that he was stepping down. Perhaps the Simcity debacle and his departure are unrelated, but given the fact that Simcity has been a complete and utter PR disaster unlike any game in recent memory, that would be quite the coincidence.
The worst part of this whole sad story is that the game has still sold over a million copies, sending a strong message that gamers have absolutely no scruples and will support virtually anything that has enough marketing power behind it. Really, this proves that gamers in general deserve future Simcity-esque screwups. After all, they voted with their wallets for more of it. Good job, everyone.