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SimCity Launch Review | The Omnishambles

Matt Gardner
EA Games, Launch review, Maxis, PC games, SimCity

SimCity Launch Review | The Omnishambles

Platforms: PC

Developers: Maxis

Publishers: EA Games

Just to clarify, this is not a review of SimCity. We can't provide you with a value judgement on the finished product just yet, and we certainly wouldn't feel comfortable picking apart the nuances of the city-building experiences we've been enjoying.

Mainly because there haven't been any.

Put simply, EA's launch of SimCity has been an embarrassing failure for all concerned. First of all, there was the pricing. A quick pop into your local GAME will see SimCity listed for sale at a price point of £42.99. That's more than most console games! It's been dictated by a digital price point on Origin that is frankly ludicrous. But don't forget, that's not for the full game. You see, EA pulled a bunch of stuff out of the game so that they could make gullible folk shell out for a Super Bumper Wicked Awesome Digital Deluxe version of the game. Don't be fooled. That's the full game. For £65.

SimCity Launch Review | The Omnishambles

Secondly, there's the small issue that once you've sold your grandmother for the privilege of dabbling in virtual civics, the game doesn't work, not reliably anyway. The chief concern for EVERYONE when it comes to this game has persistently proven to be the always-connected requirement. We will readily admit that we loved the idea of connected cities co-existing with one another, but let's be honest, Maxis could easily have bolted on a little offline sandbox mode if they'd wanted (or been permitted?) to. But tales of gamers waiting for hours just to unlock the game that they've bought, then sitting in server queues for long periods of time, before finally (if lucky) reaching the main menu of the game itself only to be told that the servers are once again offline and cities can't be loaded, make for a situation that has only gotten worse since Tuesday morning.

Hilariously, some sites have deemed it acceptable to run "reviews" of an always-online game conducted in a closed environment on private servers that no consumer has access to. We strongly advise you to ignore all of them. Just look at Polygon's yo-yo-ing score: a prime example of a clusterfuck conducted by veterans who really ought to have known better.

Worse yet, those reviews refer to a game that doesn't exist! Much as you might throw suitcases and seats and fat people out of a damaged plane to try and prevent a spiralling deadly descent, EA have been ripping out game features in the hopes that it might alleviate the hopelessly inadequate server-load. To be honest, we reckon it would be easier if they just took everyone's money, and then banned anyone who complained. The real problem, you see, are the players. Thin the herd, then everything will be fine.

SimCity Launch Review | The Omnishambles

We joke, but then a chatlog with an EA rep went viral and revealed that not only are the company refusing to reimburse disgruntled gamers who decided to buy the game digitally, but many retailers are refusing returns on opened copies of the game. To be fair, that's been standard procedure when it comes to software for a long time, indeed protocol is the only thing EA have been hiding behind; but when you're shipping an unplayable game it becomes incredibly contentious.

Oh, and if that wasn't bad enough, if you don't like it, you'll probably get banned. EA have denied this on Twitter, but one wonders why on earth the rep would possibly have gone off-book with talk of the banhammer.

To tell the truth, the EU experience (that we've had) has been touch and go. At times we've logged on absolutely fine, and managed to play for anywhere between 10-100 mins without getting unceremoniously booted. At others, it's been a gruelling process of frustration. The inconsistencies are such that, more often than not, cities and regions we've been working in have completely failed to save if the connection drops, and the game is riddled with little bugs.

SimCity Launch Review | The Omnishambles

Things could be worse, though. Spare a thought for the poor souls in Asia who've not actually got servers of their own because, as an EA Korea rep put it,  of "piracy". The irony of not being able to play something that you've paid for, when you could easily play something for which you've not elsewhere, is hopefully not lost on EA.

We don't have an issue with the always-connected idea in theory. But when you build a product around a core mechanic, and then completely fail to deliver on that mechanic, there's every right for customers to be livid. This should have been an opportunity for EA to gloriously outline their roadmap going forward, and justify the tough decisions they made for this game. Instead, SimCity's launch crumbled under the weight of expectation, with EA showing a complete disregard for customer service, and a potentially exciting game has been marred by completely avoidable vilification. Right now, those user review scores are a much, much fairer reflection of SimCity's current state than anything a critical site has pumped out. At least people are talking about the game, that's a small victory, right?


You could call this launch week many things - we particularly like clusterfuck, omnishambles, comedy of errors, and publisher seppuku - but victorious would not be among the words you'd use.

SimCity Launch Review | The Omnishambles

Add a comment11 comments
kid_jump  Mar. 8, 2013 at 17:36


Last edited by kid_jump, Mar. 8, 2013 at 17:37
kid_jump  Mar. 8, 2013 at 17:36

are they actually serious? ._. I feel like Origin has been hacked, I mean in no way should anyone pay for a £65 digital game, hell even most retail collectors editions dont cost that much! not to mention it doesnt work and probably the difference between the £45 and £65 one that the £65 has DLC that has been taken out specifically so EA could make an extra profit. I mean i dont know how long its been since the last simcity but i know ts popular and to do his, and charge that price with a fanbase as big as it is, is just discusting -.-

Tsung  Mar. 8, 2013 at 18:12

In EA eyes it's been a GREAT success, they got your money.. That's all that REALLY matters. They know enough people will just give up, reducing server load to a point where the people who do "hang around" will eventually be able to play. They also know any legal threat / proceedings against them will be futile as by the time it gets to any court it will have resolved itself. Finally they also know people have goldfish memories and so the next game they release like this "C&C:Generals 2" will be fine (in their eyes).

I suspect EA execs are all having a nice party tonight thinking about the bonuses they are going to get :)

phil16  Mar. 8, 2013 at 19:51

So glad I've practically sworn never to buy another EA game again. They don't care and prove it time and time again.

hardshiprulesmylife  Mar. 8, 2013 at 20:32

Dead Space 3 - save games aweful, checkpoint system hopelessly broken in todays market, luckily dev only pretended to make micro transactions for gear, knowing you could get it in game dead easy.
Crysis 3 - last boss bug, cannot complete, horrificly still not fixed this bug on any platform.
Sim City 3 - see above

Thats just the last month.......

wont change unless we stop giving them our money though.

sebtiger  Mar. 8, 2013 at 23:32

I'm not quite sure why everyone is having such a hard time with this game.

I have been on twice for rather extended sessions so far today and have not really had any issues anywhere near the scale everyone seems to be experiencing.

I have had the "unable to connect to Simcity server" a few times but it is normally back in a couple of minutes. I've even had the connection lost during gameplay a few times, but it doesn't kick me or anything. Just keeps going and notify's me when its regained connection.

I wasn't apparently "gullible" enough to pay for the full digital deluxe edition, but from what I can tell the difference is not in any way affecting the gameplay. The missing components are small dlc type additions that you would not expect in any normal edition anyway. Take Cities in Motion as a comparison they released a Metro Stations pack and a set of Design packs, the game wasn't unplayable without them, but having them was a bonus.

These hate fueled reviews and comments are unwarrented considering the game been out long enough for the company to iron out all the kinks that a new game with an online component places on a server system. Come to think of it, I cannot think of a single online connected game has not had similar hiccups within the first week of release.

Frankly I think this review is rather childish and unprofessional and should be removed. Not to mention the swearing within writing. My regard for DealSpwn has been somewhat lowered.

Last edited by sebtiger, Mar. 8, 2013 at 23:33
Ilium  Mar. 9, 2013 at 01:01

Last night it was an absolute 'mare trying to get onto the servers. Today has been better, apart from 'happy hour'. I think we've been a bit more fortunate here in the UK as you say. Kinda feel for our cousins across the pond. I have a few friends over there and they have been spitting teeth!

@sebtiger: I think the vitriol is coming because EA deliberately positioned this game as an always-online experience and then bottled it. As a UK gamer it's perhaps a little less understandable, but having friends in the US who've been looking forward to this for months, there's so much anger around this game right now. Just because it's happened before doesn't mean it's justified. If anything surely it makes it more unforgivable?

It's difficult not to agree with the user reviews on this one. EA said one thing, delivered a broken product, and then removed features to try and get it working again. Big publishers need to be held to account. It's precisely because of people like you that they think they can get away with this.

Last edited by Ilium, Mar. 9, 2013 at 01:01
BetterThanLife  Mar. 9, 2013 at 01:25

Frankly, I think "clusterfuck" sums it up perfectly.

First time I've heard the phrase "omnishambles" though. That's even better :D

@sebtiger: Do you work for EA by chance? Seriously, grow some **** balls. EA screwed up bigtime with this. They should have learnt from Diablo 3 and AND battlefield.

MattGardner  Mar. 9, 2013 at 12:53

@sebtiger: I understand your concerns, but this is very much a mock review. It's categorised as an article rather than a review, and is simply using the review structure to make a point. As I say in the article, it's not a review of the game.

The sad thing is that SimCity looks to be cracking fun.

I'd contest the word "hate" in your comment. It's not a malicious piece, rather an observational account of a launch week marred by calamities that could (and should) have been easily avoided. We've castigated releases before for having a shoddy online infrastructure in place. It's no longer excusable, especially not when there's no offline option.

On the plus side, it seems to be working more often than not today. Does that magically gloss over what's written above? Hell no. But perhaps now at least we can turn to the game itself.

socialjeebus  Mar. 9, 2013 at 15:21

Don't feel too sorry for us in Asia (even Korea - had to lol at the rep - we even get our own freemium FIFA!) the UK rrp of the regular digital version is more expensive than the Origin price for the digital deluxe version in Korea.

Whilst the standard version is going for just 24 quid.

Might just have to brave the servers.

r1k3r  Mar. 10, 2013 at 13:14

Way to go EA. Thanks for showing us how to take a classic game, and completely F*** it up. I'm a huge SC fan and hate this "Always on-line" ****. I bet Will Wright is hopping mad. I mean the game itself, if there was a single player off-line option would be screaming off the shelves now. The graphics are great and the game play looks awesome too, but why oh why with the always on-line? Do EA really think that some enterprising pre-pubescent cracker is going to find it that hard to crack, and when they do crack it, it will be more popular than the retail version because people don't have to put up with the server issues. Way to shoot yourself in the foot EA.

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