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SimCity reversal: EA finally adding offline mode

SimCity reversal: EA finally adding offline mode

Mon 13 Jan 2014 4:08pm GMT / 11:08am EST / 8:08am PST

Nearly a year after a disastrous launch, SimCity will be receiving a free update to install an offline mode as an option

In a blog post on the official website today, Maxis Emeryville general manager Patrick Buechner announced that with the soon-to-be-launched Update 10 for SimCity "all of your previously downloaded content will be available to you anytime, anywhere, without the need for an internet connection."

Bringing the game offline also means that SimCity will be opened up to the community of modders. "They can now make modifications to the game and its components without compromising the integrity of the Online game. Modding is a big part of our studio's legacy and we're excited to see what you guys create," Buechner added.

SimCity's launch last year was plagued with server issues. Many users were unable to download the game, and for those who did have a copy, it took 30 minutes sometimes just to be able to connect to a server if it happened at all. Because the game was online only, it left many users frustrated, unable to play a title they spent hard-earned money on. EA defended the game's online only nature, noting that an offline mode would be difficult to engineer, and that it didn't fit with the developer's "vision" for SimCity.

Despite the troubled launch, SimCity sales in the first two weeks were brisk, totaling 1.1 million. From March to May, the game's sales climbed to 1.6 million. By July, EA managed to sell 2 million copies of the game.

"In retrospect, our biggest takeaway is that we are lucky that SimCity has an enormous number of loyal fans," EA exec Frank Gibeau said. "That first week after launch was really rough - an experience nobody wants to live through again."

13 Comments

Thomas Dolby
Project Manager / Lead Programmer

334 283 0.8
Better late than never I suppose.

The last two years have been make or break for previously offline single-player games and services to make a transition to online only and the customer responded with a big loud no. Companies have yet to show they are capable of doing it right (Activision Blizzard, EA and Microsoft bringing some spectacular failures to the table) and customers have shown they're not ready for it. Offline single-player games and services have shown they still have a place for a good while yet. I can't believe it has to be said but companies should listen to what their customers want, and more importantly what they don't want.

Posted:8 months ago

#1

Axel Cushing
Writer / Blogger

104 130 1.3
Popular Comment
@Thomas

I would agree with you that it seems incredible that companies have to be told to listen to their customers. Unfortunately, it's one of those things that got lost in the noise of "listen to the shareholders." Too many short term quarter-to-quarter decisions to pump up the stock price will eventually lead to a long term failure of the company.

What I find particularly obnoxious about this announcement is that it's coming after a series of embarrassing revelations and clumsy lies (really no other way to describe them) regarding the product that were published months ago. The project lead swore up and down that offline play was an impossibility, yet people had been able to hack their way into offline play through the game's own command console. Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun had good coverage on the story, and RPS apparently had a source inside Maxis who called shenanigans on the assertion that the GlassBox engine was doing any sort of calculations relating to the actual simulation of the cities. The tragedy isn't that all of this happened. It's that EA denied the sky was blue for so long after being told so.

Posted:8 months ago

#2

Andreia Quinta
Creative & People Photographer

215 549 2.6
Hell has finally gone cold?

Posted:8 months ago

#3

Bonnie Patterson
Freelance Narrative Designer

159 431 2.7
Rawr to offline and modding!

Posted:8 months ago

#4

Aleksi Ranta
Product Manager - Hardware

273 127 0.5
The damage is unfortunately already done, and the once great SimCity will only stay on as relic to the die hard fans of the series, once again.

Posted:8 months ago

#5

Steven Hodgson
Programmer

83 122 1.5
I'll wait for the first mod that allows a city bigger than a standard McDonalds restaurant

Posted:8 months ago

#6

Matthew Hardy
Studying Multimedia/Game Design

42 105 2.5
2 million units is paItry for such a great franchise. Perhaps if it weren't online only it would have sold 6 million. love SimCity but will be sticking with SC-3000.

Posted:8 months ago

#7

Roman Margold
Rendering Software Engineer

24 34 1.4
"In retrospect, our biggest takeaway is that we are lucky that SimCity has an enormous number of loyal fans," EA exec Frank Gibeau said.
I applaud to that. I think this was the first honest answer from EA with respect to SimCity.

Sounds like I might want it too now.

Posted:8 months ago

#8

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,094 1,049 1.0
Between what the game tried to do with the franchise and what it did to the franchise, this might be one of the saddest stories. The corpse is dead, long live the corpse.

Posted:8 months ago

#9

Craig Page
Programmer

382 218 0.6
That's a good start, now they just need either a DRM free version or to sell it on Steam.

I recently put 80 hours into Sim City 4 after getting it for $5 in a Steam sale, I know I won't be able to resist a similar deal on the new Sim CIty.

Posted:8 months ago

#10

Steve Wetz
Reviewer/Assistant Editor

213 529 2.5
This was really a disastrous no-brainer. They could have made a graphically upgraded SimCity 4 and included the online as a "feature," not a "requirement." It would have sold 5 mil at least. Instead this monstrosity happened. And then the increasingly insulting mantra of "But it haz to be ONLINE LOL1!" And the increasingly insulting EA execs telling gamers that they really should calm down, which just added fuel to the fire.

@Andrea, that comment is spot on. This limb of the franchise is gangrenous. Operate all you want - you're still better off amputating.

Posted:8 months ago

#11

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,174 1,124 0.5
*Sigh*. As I keep saying offline modes are neither old fashioned or impossible... they're NECESSARY, period. Instead of some company telling me I can't play their game unless I'm connected, why don't they unchain their games from always online and maybe. MAKE. MORE. MONEY. when more people want to play something without a ball and chain and invisible meter running and logging everything they do...

Offline should be a selling point on the back of a game box of digital shop description. It should be a no-brainer just to move a few million copies out of the gate.

Posted:8 months ago

#12

Mariusz Szlanta
Producer

31 27 0.9
I don't think I will ever forgive EA for what they did to SimCity.

Interesingly, scales tipped around the same time when SimCity was released and mass market fragmented into self-sustaining niches. Offline game fed with some F2P/DLC model and treated as a service had real chance. They were just running scared about piracy levels rather than thinking about freeloaders and retention.

Posted:8 months ago

#13

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