Almost all the excitement and good will Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:EA) built up in the anticipation of the latest SimCity release this week has turned against the company.
The newest entry in the personal-computer video-game series has been ripped by critics and yanked by major retailers, including Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), for functionality problems that make it impossible to actually play the game.
But first let’s dial everything back. The SimCity franchise is one extremely familiar to gamers with a penchant for urban planning. Excitement in advance of Tuesday’s release date was been almost unparalleled because of the game’s widespread appeal.
In the game, players have to build their own city while keeping in mind their population’s satisfaction and the possibility of things like a nuclear meltdown or zombie takeover. Pre-release reviews of the latest entry in the series were overwhelmingly positive, with questions about the game’s all-online game play dominating forums such as MetaFilter and Reddit in the days leading to the North America launch Tuesday.
That same selling point has turned out to be the game’s downfall, so far. EA's servers have been unable to accommodate the massive number of players. Making matters worse is that there is no campaign mode: SimCity is only available when played online, meaning the server problem has rendered the game’s purchase and download useless in the early going.
As a result, Amazon.com temporarily stopped selling the game, according to BBC News. And, despite all the anger over the currently more or less dysfunctional product, EA's Origin distribution service tweeted: “Regarding recent confusion: In general we do not offer refunds on digital download games. Please review our policy.”
Kip Katsarelis, a senior producer for SimCity, attempted to quell the rising tide of resentment with a post on EA’s Forums Thursday, but she was quickly ripped by gamers over the lack of a specific resolution or definite timeline.
“Server capacity is our biggest obstacle. We launched in North America on Tuesday and our servers filled up within a matter of hours,” Katsarelis wrote. “What we saw was that players were having such a good time they didn't want to leave the game, which kept our servers packed and made it difficult for new players to join. We added more servers to accommodate the launch in Australia and Japan, and then more yesterday to accommodate the launch in Europe.”
She added: “As of right now, we are adding even more servers which will be going live over the next three days. And, our plan is to continue to bring more servers online until we have enough to meet the demand, increase player capacity and let more people through the gates and into the game.”
On Polygon's 10-point scale, SimCity's review score has dropped from 9.5 Monday to 8 Tuesday to 4 Thursday.
Meanwhile, critics took to Twitter to voice their complaints. Game designer Ian Bogost was among those most pointed about SimCity’s trouble: “Disabling features of SimCity due to ineffective central infrastructure is probably the most realistic simulation of the modern city.”