Avid Gamer (And Minnesota Vikings Punter) Chris Kluwe Does The Math On How Much EA's SimCity Debacle Cost EA

from the another-pull-quote:-'worse-than-Herpes' dept

Oh, EA. I would imagine that there are more than a few execs and PR people who are hoping their employer is siphoning off a bit of its $5 billion market cap and putting it towards time machine R&D. With this post-facto mulligan tearing a new hole in the spacetime continuum, EA should be able to do a proper game launch and collect some accolades along with a ton of non-refundable cash. (Obviously, the time machine has yet to be built because this post still exists. Mind blown?)

EA's debacle, which makes the Diablo 3 launch look positively competent and issue-free by comparison, has seen the company receive even more criticism than it's accustomed to. Not only have a variety of game reviewers delivered less than flattering reviews, but now public figures like Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe (an avid gamer) are stepping up to pile another helping of derision onto EA's overloaded plate. (Note: all redacted swearing courtesy of Business Insider.)
Don’t get me wrong, the game itself is great. When it works, that is. And oh boy, does it hate working.

At the time of writing this piece, SimCity 5 has been active for almost 62 hours. Of those 62 hours, I’ve been able to log in for around ten. Of those ten, four consisted of massive latency issues and corrupted games, so (quick calculation here), I’ve had access to the actual game for maybe 10 percent of the time I’ve had it. EA’s servers are, to put it bluntly, utterly bug[redacted], and there’s no option to play the game offline.
We're going to do a little math here, because there's more interesting math on the way. Who in their right mind would purchase an item that worked roughly 16% of the time, fresh out of the box, especially if the product didn't even perform at 100% capacity when it actually got going? Thousands of people, many of them not in the NFL, paid for a product with a mere 1 in 10 chance of working as advertised and only a 16% chance of doing anything at all. Understandably, Kluwe and thousands of others are irate.

Making matters worse is the insistence that the "always on" connection is required because so much processing is being handled on EA's servers. Kluwe's experience seems to indicate that EA isn't being completely honest about this in order to justify its online-only requirement.
The fact that EA requires an “always on” connection is ostensibly because so many operations are taking place server side that your computer won’t be able to handle it (which is a blatant falsehood, since when I was streaming the other night, the only times I DIDN’T have latency was when I was disconnected from their servers and my computer had to run all the game operations), but in reality it’s to try to combat piracy.
Now, we have heard from the developers themselves that EA servers do host (and very often, corrupt) players' saved games, making a mockery of such modern inventions like hard drives. But the insistence that a large amount of processing happens server-side has been met with incredulously raised eyebrows, including Kluwe's own. Even if true, the main reason for the server-side processing is to keep client machines from containing enough code to go rogue and starting their own brisk trade at The Pirate Bay.

So, EA's simply protecting itself from the piracy threat by crippling the paying customer's experience. The ultimate aim is to make more money. But EA's anti-piracy calculations apparently never factored in negative reviews and word-of-mouth, both of which can have a deleterious effect on game sales.
Sadly, EA seems to have failed to do some very simple math. Let’s look at an example. We’ll assume that for an amazingly successful game like SimCity, about 20,000 people will end up pirating it (those who have the technical knowhow and Internet savvy to find a working crack). I have 160,000 Twitter followers, of whom around 50,000 follow me for gaming. I just told those 50,000 people NOT to buy SimCity because EA cannot handle its s***, and the game is unplayable. We’ll say half those people listen to me and haven’t bought the game already. Soooo, carrying the pi, we see that EA is already out 5,000 more sales than if they had just created a normal, single player offline capable game with multiplayer components.
Many members of various industries have wrangled numbers in order to equate a pirated copy to a lost sale while failing to realize that a bad review can ALSO equal a lost sale. Because of this faulty extrapolation, the assumption generally becomes "more DRM/enforcement = good." EA is finding out, firsthand, that this just simply isn't true.

Even if Kluwe's back-of-the-internet calculations are completely wrong, EA is still leaking sales. Many have demanded refunds from Amazon (and received them), and many more are lining up at Origin to get their money back. EA is taking a hard line on refunding digital sales, which is only going to hurt it in the long run. It might be able to push back here in the US, but overseas (the market it's currently underserving launching in) generally has stronger consumer protections, which makes its no-refund-on-digital-sales policy null and void.

In addition, more than 1,000 negative reviews are doing even reputational damage at Amazon, which has decided to stop handing out refunds, not by screwing customers, but by pulling the digital version from its shelves.

Beyond the bad math, the inadequate customer service, the decision to make the game even worse until the servers can keep up with the demand, is EA's refusal to allow customers to own the product they purchased. By keeping enough of the code running only on its servers, no SimCity purchaser can ever claim they own the game. All they own is a key to the door. EA still owns the house. And once EA decides the house is no longer worth living in, 5 or 10 years down the road, even the key will be worthless.


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    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 5:27am

    So how long until EA goes bankrupt?

     

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      Bengie, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:22am

      Re:

      Hopefully soon. Would be nice if they started selling their IP to competent programming houses.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:47am

      Re:

      stock near a 52 week high.

      No fears of bankruptcy

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:52am

        Re: Re:

        Except that if you look at the stock price history from the beginning, the recent stock price increase is not statistically significant. EA stock plunged in 2009, and has been gradually decreasing ever since.

         

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        JustSomeGuy, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:31pm

        Bankruptcy ...

        ... has absolutely NOTHING to do with stock price. Stock price is how much the market thinks your company is worth, bankruptcy is when you cannot pay your bills as they fall due.

        Just keep you eyes on Facebook and you'll soon see the distinction :-)

         

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      jayster, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:49am

      Re:

      I can see the headlines now - "EA goes into bankruptcy because of...PIRACY!!!"

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:41am

      Re:

      Not [redacted] soon enough.

       

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      Robert Doyle (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      Morally or financially? I think they are well past one of those benchmarks...

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2013 @ 12:19am

      Re:

      Unfortunately that won't happen. Enough people will still pay for this game and others that it won't even matter in the long run. Yesterday for example, EA stocks went up 3 points in just a few hours, right in the middle of all this nonsense.

      Not only do they not care about the customers, it doesn't even make a difference to their bottom line.

       

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      sam-12, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 12:52pm

      Re: LOL EA!!

      Ea go bankrupt? It went bankrupt in 2002? It's a zombie corporation eversince! It's survival is dependant on eating other deffensless companies out there!

      I say we starve the beast! It will die of starvation!

       

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 5:47am

    I could not put my hands in that specific data and I honestly don't think there will be but if anyone finds any data regarding Sim City 5 sales and refunds we could do some proper math.

    So what we'll need here is to compare how the most famous pc franchises did recently (I'd go for the average sales) with how Sim City 5 is faring so far to see how much this DRM has cost EA. Maybe even without the refunds we can see a big dent I'm not sure.

    For instance, Windows 8:
    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9235059/Windows_8_s_uptake_falls_behind_Vista_s_pace
    The y make comparisons on the other alternatives in the market. I know this may not be a perfect methodology but we can have an idea of the magnitude of the losses.

    I'm trying to find something here but if we crowdsource this it'll be much faster ;D

     

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      John Nevill, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:29am

      Re:

      I'm not sure that the impact will be seen directly on Simcity's sales. Unfortunately those of us that grew up with this game and wasted many many many many hours of their lives building cities in each version (Original, Simcity 2000, Simcity 3000, Simcity 4, and expansion packs) can't not buy this game.

      The real effect will be seen in future EA sales, and, I'm afraid, future Maxis games. I for one, will NEVER purchase another game from EA or Maxis unless there are some major efforts to win me back (creating a non-connected version would be a step in the right direction).

      As much as a shitstorm as this release has been for EA, I don't think they have any appreciation for the downstream impact that is going to affect their future game sales for years to come.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:55am

        Re: Re:

        The real effect will be seen in future EA sales, and, I'm afraid, future Maxis games


        No need to fear, that bridge has already been crossed. Maxis has been dead since 1997. It's all EA now.

         

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        ricebowl (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re:

        Unfortunately those of us that grew up with this game and wasted many many many many hours of their lives building cities in each version (Original, Simcity 2000, Simcity 3000, Simcity 4, and expansion packs) can't not buy this game.



        No, actually, I'm having precisely no difficulty in not-buying SimCity 5 (despite loving each of the previous games, except SimCity 3000). I am, however, rather enjoying watching the debacle unfold, despite knowing that EA is unlikely to change anything at all about its behaviour until such a time as people begin to entirely disregard their products.


        Of course, this won't be considered as a possibility unless people also contact EA to explain, specifically, why they're not buying; otherwise it will be interpreted as "We're not doing enough to combat piracy!"

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:18am

          Re: Re: Re:

          This. You won't find a more die-hard SimCity fan than me. It's been a mainstay of my gaming world since the very first release.

          I won't touch SimCity 5 with a ten-foot pole for two reasons: the DRM is far too onerous, and no offline play.

          SimCity as a social game is something that not only doesn't interest me, but I find it a large negative.

           

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            ricebowl (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            SimCity as a social game is something that not only doesn't interest me, but I find it a large negative.



            Whereas I can see the point of a social SimCity; for example all the various treaties and agreements with neighbouring cities from previous games, they'd be much more interesting with actual negotiations between human players, particularly if there was some ability to negotiate properly (altering costs, binding to other services, trade-exclusivity, mutual funding for a joint multi-jurisdiction Fire or Police Departments, or whatever else...).


            That they managed to completely screw up, and obviate, the potential of social, making it a requirement of even non-social environments? That takes a level of skill most, thankfully, don't have.

             

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              Ninja (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:42am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Whereas I can see the point of a social SimCity; for example all the various treaties and agreements with neighbouring cities from previous games, they'd be much more interesting with actual negotiations between human players, particularly if there was some ability to negotiate properly (altering costs, binding to other services, trade-exclusivity, mutual funding for a joint multi-jurisdiction Fire or Police Departments, or whatever else...).

              I can see this too. And yet there's no reason for them to not add an offline mode while offering the multiplayer thing at the local level (without their servers involved) and at the cloud level where they'd handle all the agreements and saves on the server side. I'm sure it can be done. Except that... PIRACY!

               

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                ricebowl (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:55am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Oh, I absolutely agree, yes: every game (maybe not MMOs, but I don't play those, so I'm not sure) should have a local option for single-player, if only to provide as a fall-back for when the servers, the ISP or the telecoms provider screws up (like any of those are even a rarity).

                 

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              John Fenderson (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 10:00am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Yes, agreed. I can see why people would enjoy a social SimCity despite not being one of them.

              However, it would have been better if they'd made the fact that the entire point of the game is the social experience very clear. Maybe even naming it "SimCity Social" or "SimCity MMORPG" or something.

              Then I wouldn't have felt any excitement about it and would not have been so disappointed.

               

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                PaulT (profile), Mar 12th, 2013 @ 6:19am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "Maybe even naming it "SimCity Social""

                That name is taken for the free Facebook game they produce. I wonder why people paying full price for a game are unhappy about getting less of a service than those free players?

                 

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        akp (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:40am

        Re: Re:

        [We] can't not buy this game


        What? Oh yes we can NOT buy this game. I grew up on the franchise also, but I don't have any obligation or desire to buy in to this broken entry. It's not the SimCity I grew up with anyway, so I'm not actually missing out.

        Please... Just because you love SimCity, DON'T BUY THIS GAME. If you've already bought it, please at least request a refund.

        You're validating EA's practices by claiming "well, I have to buy it!"

         

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        The Groove Tiger (profile), Mar 12th, 2013 @ 6:56am

        Re: Re:

        "Unfortunately those of us that grew up with this game and wasted many many many many hours of their lives building cities in each version (Original, Simcity 2000, Simcity 3000, Simcity 4, and expansion packs) can't not buy this game."

        That's like saying that we can't not buy Simcity Societies.

         

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      Djinnx (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 11:20am

      Re:

      http://nakedlaw.avvo.com/celebrities/the-most-pirated-shows-and-music-of-2012.html

      This site (I have not confirmed this data) claims 4 million people were "tech-savvy" enough to download Game of Thrones from torrent sites. Downloading a cracked game is literally just as easy, the instructions for each crack are included in the torrent that you get from the same site using the same search function.

      So if 4 million people downloaded Game of Thrones, I think it's safe to bet that over 3 million would have downloaded something like SimCity.

      Of course, whether those downloads equate to lost sales is a different matter - I think most of those 3 million would have bought the game if that was the only way to access the online social functions. If EA had simply offered them as a feature instead of a requirement, I don't think they'd have any problems right now.

       

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    PaulT (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 5:53am

    "equate a pirated copy to a lost sale while failing to realize that a bad review can ALSO equal a lost sale."

    Funnily enough it can also equal a pirated copy - people are much less likely to gamble $60+ on a game that's getting crappy reviews and will preview it in some way to make sure they're getting their money's worth. If not pirate, they will at least wait for the price to drop significantly before paying out (for example, I was looking forward to Aliens: Colonial Marines as I'm a huge fan of the film series, but the bad press have made me wait, I'll just buy Bioshock Infinite instead in a few weeks). This must be even more true if the bad press is due to intentional breaking of the experience (as with Sim City) rather than people just not liking the game. Even legal purchasers will often pirate to remove DRM (I know I often cracked games to not require CDs even though I owned them legally) - one of the many reasons why people who claim that a pirated copy is always a lost sale are full of crap.

    In other words, their anti piracy measures are not only losing them money even from people who ultimately buy a copy due to cheaper prices, they're actually promoting piracy in the first place!

     

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      Ninja (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:10am

      Re:

      they're actually promoting piracy in the first place!

      If there are pirated versions (I have not bothered to check). So I'm supposing there are no working pirate copies since the game cannot be played offline and thus they effectively stopped piracy. Since there's no piracy we can all beliave that their sales will skyrocket and surpass even the most successful franchises ever no? I'd infer they'll going to get 833 billion dollars in revenue from Sim City 5 alone!

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:33am

        Re: Re:

        That's assuming that EA's assertion about server-side calculations is correct. IF it isn't, well that would just be another reason not to pay for SimC 5.

         

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          Alon Ze, Mar 12th, 2013 @ 6:20pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I've been a gamer since the very early 80's. It's one of the great joys in life and I've never minded paying for them because I truly want to support the people who make them.

          Over the past half a decade or so, this has been getting a lot harder to justify unfortunately, and it's stories like this one about EA that show exactly why. Another is how lackluster support is becoming commonplace, such as where a patch is badly needed but never released. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to finish Assassin's Creed 3 for example, the game I'm currently playing, due to a major design flaw I've run into. It's mind boggling how anyone could miss something so obvious if proper testing were being done and it's the kind of thing that can easily ruin the whole experience.

          So this week I've been considering doing something entirely new; pirating every single game I wish to play from now on. If after finishing it I'm pleased with the overall experience and didn't run into any problems, only then will I go out and buy it. Some may scoff at this, having difficulty believing someone would pay if they didn't have do, but I'm really not making this up. I keep them all and never sell them, meaning I have a huge library I'm proud of. I like owning games and the option to eventually replay the best of them.

          Considering where the industry has been headed for a while now, as well as the fact they don't allow refunds in my neck of the woods and likely never will, I think this is a perfectly fair and equitable solution to the dilemma they've chosen to create. Those whom do a good job deservedly get my money, while those who don't get to learn the hard way you don't screw over your paying customers. Survival of the fittest is exactly how this universe was meant to work after all.

          It also means I get to decide what price I pay. Having already played the game, I'll be free to wait until a price point I feel is fair has been reached. Considering all the frustration I and many others just like me have had to endure over the years, it is impossible for me to feel that this decision is wrong or immoral in any way. It's really just the natural result of everything the game industry has done and is still doing.

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:52am

        Re: Re:

        Oddly enough I didn't see any pirated copies of Sim City 5, but Sim City 4 was super popular lately... probably cause just about any word of mouth review I saw was "Sim City 4 is way better than 5."

        Sorta like Unreal Tournament 3 was garbage compared to Unreal Tournament 2004.

        Unreal 2k4 was getting way more attention and download than Unreal 3 because... well... it was a better game and dejected fans went back to the older game knowing that the magic is gone and the road ahead was a dark one.

         

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        AndyD273 (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:08am

        Re: Re:

        My sarcasm meter is ticking, but it's very subtle.

        I believe that EA should remember to never underestimate the power of the thousands of hackers that will keep trying to get around their DRM. And they only have to get lucky one time.

         

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        Rowan, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:35am

        Re: Re:

        The pirated game works much better than the legit version.
        Mainly because you can't play it online.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:38am

      Re:

      It has become so bad that they are rumoured to have suspended their marketing campaign and with that they have reduced their early sale even further:
      http://www.gamespot.com/news/ea-suspends-some-simcity-marketing-report-6405070

      On the other hand they are among the most watched games on Twitch.com which is usually an indication of a popular game. Could also be the result of a lot of people wanting to see the game before buying. Anyway, it seems Simcity has some serious issues that will hamper their future sale immensely. Only question remaining is how much sale they have had so far. If that tanked too, Simcity 5 is pretty much doomed.

       

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    Zacqary Adam Green (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    You know, what if it were more than an anti-piracy measure? What if they actually did design a game that was so stupidly complex, that it couldn't be contained in our mere mortal quad-core rigs with some general-purpose calculations offloaded to the GPU?

    You know what then?

    Then it would still be a completely unsustainable product design.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:16am

      Re:

      Correction, you don't offload 'general-purpose calculations' to the GPU. You offload highly parallelizable computations (graphics, physics, that sort of stuff).

       

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      Anonymous Howard (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:35am

      Re:

      You're absolutely correct.

      Let's assume for the simplicity of the math, that a 4 core 4Gb mem. comp. can handle 1 people's gameplay without the OS and graphics.

      EA would need 4000 processor 4Tb supercomputers for every 1000 customers. Yeah, that's a plausible design choice...

       

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        Ninja (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:55am

        Re: Re:

        Oh come on, they managed to stop piracy! They are going to make trillions of dollars, so what if they need to spend a few billion and a few tonnes of uranium per year to maintain the servers?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:09am

    "5 or 10 years down the road"

    I think you mean 1 or 2 years.

     

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      Haywood (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:50am

      Re:

      Absolutely, it has always been EA's style to force obsolescence. I've still not forgotten how they wouldn't release a video update for NFS3 (the original hot pursuit) when video cards changed to the modern type. Their reply was to buy the newer version, which wasn't hot pursuit. I already owned the newer "most Wanted", and that didn't help one bit. Some times the strategy or something of a game just hits with a person, and almost the same won't get it. They are so far off in the woods with that title now, I don't even check to see if it might accidentally be fun. I've moved on to Rockstar Games

       

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    Hate for Greed, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:12am

    Hate EA

    I have always loved Sim City, especially the maxis ones. While I would love to play the latest Sim City, I am totally prohibited as Im not allowed to use the internet at work for games or personal activities. At work is my only windows machine so my only gaming rig. I usually play in my lunch time and also after my shift. I cannot play sim city 5 at work or I risk getting fired. I am shattered. I hate EA so much for this dodgy crap. Screw them.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:13am

      Re: Hate EA

      I'd laugh out loud at this post but I'm at work.

       

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      JustSomeGuy, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:13pm

      Re: Hate EA

      Here's a thought. Rather than complaining that EA somehow damages your playing experience on a computer you probably shouldn't be playing games on AT ALL, why don't you go and buy your own Windows rig for playing this?

      I'm no fan of EA, they've royally screwed themselves here, but your sense of entitlement is amazing. Maybe you're right, maybe EA should expend a lot more energy to get around your company policies. Perhaps they should provide you with a game server so that you don't need to use the internet to play their games. Yeah, that'll improve their profit margin :-)

      Get back to work. If it's lunchtime, go get some lunch, or take a walk, or something. Don't spend all morning doing your work on the computer then spend luchtime playing games on it.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:16am

    but if those at EA that have taken the decision to 'keep ownership of the house, giving out only a rental key to the purchaser' were told that they didn't own something that they just bought, whether it was a car, a TV, a pair of shoes, or, even worse, the wife told they didn't own their dress, then couple in that they couldn't then part exchange or sell any of the items on, couldn't even give the items away, they would go absolutely ape shit!! imagine having to buy a new game for each of 6 children. bloody ridiculous!!

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:58am

      Re:

      Renting something is substantially cheaper than buying it, precisely because the value proposition is substantially less.

      I wouldn't have a problem with a company who was renting software, so long as they were actually up-front about it and charged rates that were appropriate, rather than the same price as with software you purchase.

      What EA and other software companies that do this sort of thing are really doing is scamming their customers.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:17am

    Nobody wants it!

    After a quick search, I don't see very many pirate releases out there for this game.

    You know a game sucks when even the pirates don't want it!

     

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      Anonymous Howard (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:43am

      Re: Nobody wants it!

      I think by keeping a lot of code on their servers they actually managed to reduce piracy to the minimum. Until some working cracked servers are developed, they're in the pirate-free waters.

      That's said, let them prove how more successful they are without free advertising, bad reviews, and annoyed customers. I expect #1 ranks on charts, top sales, satisfied execs etc etc... /s

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:08am

        Re: Re: Nobody wants it!

        Piracy does not hurt sales, however a crappy product certainly does.

         

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        Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:30am

        Re: Re: Nobody wants it!

        "I think by keeping a lot of code on their servers they actually managed to reduce piracy to the minimum. Until some working cracked servers are developed, they're in the pirate-free waters."

        You'll be able to play the solo version offline as soon as somebody hacks the code. Despite what they're saying, I suspect they don't actually do a lot of processing on their servers.

        I think the delay is due to the fact that the hackers are having trouble reverse-engineering the code, because they can't get online to profile it. :)

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:55am

          Re: Re: Re: Nobody wants it!

          I think the delay is due to the fact that the hackers are having trouble reverse-engineering the code, because they can't get online to profile it. :)

          That's highly likely actually. I'm pretty certain the server code was, conveniently, not included with the retail or digital distribution.

          Sniffing and then reverse engineering what the server is doing is a little more complex than just reverse engineering code running on the local machine. It will be possible, but without an "angel" copy of the server code, the local server that will be used by a pirate copy will have to be coded ground up based on what it appears the servers are doing online.

          We know for a fact the processing requirement can't be that high, since it would be direct economical suicide to do it that way, as opposed to indirect fiscal suicide by way of "anti-piracy".

          What we don't know is exactly what those servers should be feeding back to the client when they are working correctly.

           

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            Drew, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 12:15pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Nobody wants it!

            Emulating the server 100% accurately will be very difficult, but I don't believe it will be necessary. As far as I'm aware, there are four big components: authenticating the client, saving the game, communicating the status of other cities in the region, and simulating the global resource market to determine the price of imports and exports.

            Verifying the authentication is pretty straightforward, either it works or it doesn't.

            Saving the game is the big step, and I'm hoping that at least some representation is stored locally so that reverse engineering doesn't have to start from ground zero.

            If you have a working method of saving the game, parsing it for the variables required for city interaction should be manageable and less than complete fidelity to the official server behavior will probably be acceptable in many cases. The same goes for the resource market, and it could even be fun to let players tweak the market to create new game conditions (how hard will it be run a city if carbon taxes increase the price of coal and oil by 50%, for example).

             

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    kog999, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:19am

    EA will not blame this on DRM, at least not the concept of DRM. They'll blame the developers for "bugs" in the game. the developers will blame it on the server guys for not having good enough servers. The server guys will blame someone else. A few people might get fired and EA might vowl to not lets these "bugs" happen again but online only being bad probably wont even be discussed.

     

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    Lord Binky, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:36am

    It's going to hurt when finally understand....

    So....They're afraid of losing sales to a piracy, so they release a game that people see could have been good but EA's fear of piracy makes such a miserable experience for their paying customers, that they have to beg to be forgiven....again.. "And to get us back in your good graces, we're going to offer you a free PC download game from the EA portfolio."

    There has to be a word for this.

    The end result:
    They give away free games to make up for the poor piracy protection imposed on the paying customers. (NOTE: these are paying customers) What's the likelihood this is greater than the number of games that would be downloaded by pirates(Note: Included in the pirates are people that would never pay which are pointless to bother with in terms of a money making business)

    Oh, and EA doesn't have to pay for the bandwidth the pirates use to download games, unlike the free games they just gave away.

     

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      Argonel (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:29am

      Re: It's going to hurt when finally understand....

      To put in the appropriate abusive relationship analogy. You are complaining about being punched in the right eye. EA is offering you a free punch in the left eye if you will stick around.

       

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        Ninja (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:50am

        Re: Re: It's going to hurt when finally understand....

        O yeah, go to our insanely crappy Origin service, get virtually sodomized with the same damned thing that made this game a piece of stinking garbage and forgive us. Thank you.

        Might as well as go fly in the US and get free TSA cavity exams.

         

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        Lord Binky, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re: It's going to hurt when finally understand....

        I think it's funny that EA is giving away more for free than they lose to pirates, to keep from driving away paying customers in their fight against pirates.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:44am

    EA's Plan for Vengance

    1) Put Chris Kluwe on the cover of next year's Madden Football.

    2) Let the Madden curse take over.

    3) All negative talk towards DRM and thoughts of piracy are quashed!

    All will bow before EA!

     

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:45am

    Just say no!

    Any software, game or otherwise, that requires an "always on" internet connection, should be shunned - run as fast as you can away from it! I don't care if it is the bee's knees, and nothing else will work for what you need. If you cannot run it off-line (gee, I am going to be in the back of the beyond for the next 6 months studying the mating habits of the Well-Heeled Bozo and will want to decompress in the evening after a tiring day of documenting their behavior) then why in the heck would you want to buy it in the first place!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:02am

      Re: Just say no!

      It really is absurd.

      If developers want to sell an online experience then... sell the online experience.

      I play tons of games that could have "always on" internet connections but I would never notice because I play them exclusively in a multiplayer environment.

      But a game like Sim City?? What's next, force always on for Solitaire?!

      Achievement unlock!!! Pointlessly forcing multiplayer onto a single player game. **lose tons of confused fans to new products**

       

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      gorehound (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:20am

      Re: Just say no!

      WE also need a real Boycott of all things EA ! With Petitions Signed so they know we Gamers are Serious.

       

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      silverscarcat (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:45am

      Re: Just say no!

      I think Dark Souls and Demons' Souls did it right. But I think that you just have to be connected so you can play other people, I don't think either game has info stored server side.

       

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    PopeRatzo (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 6:53am

    one of these things is not like the other...

    Man, kickers are a different breed of football player, no?

     

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    The English Professor, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:11am

    Maths, not math.

    Will you yanks ever learn?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:17am

    in terms of refunds for game downloads

    is this a game download? or a client download to play the game on their servers? i would think the distinction would be important down the road, assuming lawsuits....

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 10:35am

      Re: in terms of refunds for game downloads

      They have digital downloads, where they claim the right to "no refunds". Amazon, of course, enjoys return business and offered refunds for people who bought the broken software, then pulled the digital version from their store.

       

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    Colin, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:20am

    Interesting note from the SimCity Twitter account the other day:

    "We have no intention of offlining SimCity any time soon but we'll look into that as part of our earning back your trust efforts."

    So apparently they're full of shit and it IS possible to offline it...but they just won't.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:24am

    You have give give EA credit for one thing.....

    They found a solution to the issue of 'Piracy'.
    unplayable * unsaleable = dead pirates & dead players
    which simplifies down to 'NO SALES' and massive 'BAD WILL'

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:41am

      Re: You have give give EA credit for one thing.....

      D3 did the same thing and got cracked.

      It just depends how much people even care about scripting out the missing bits themselves.

       

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    Max, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:40am

    An allegory

    At one point, you could buy a slide. You would put it in your backyard, and then you could go out and use it whenever you want. If your friends came over, they could use your slide too if you let them, but that was your decision.

    EA is no longer selling slides. They are selling tickets to use the slide in the park that they've built. There is a person standing at the bottom of the ladder to the slide who checks your ticket every time you want to go up. And if they decide to close the park, there's nothing you can do about it.

    Also, your ticket has your name on it, so if you decide you don't want to go to that park any more, you can't sell it to anyone.

    In this allegory, 'pirates' are the people who would send one person into the park to take measurements of the slide, and then spend their time and effort building their own.

     

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    Lesath (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 7:48am

    If companies were really interested in doing the online only properly, the easiest thing to do would be have the game ping a server say every 5 minutes. Just to check the key and make sure it's a legitimate copy.

    What's the point of having a 2TB hard drive if you can't put saved games on it. I realize the whole point is to prevent hacking of offline games and then putting them into the online part of the game but like they just trying to piss people off.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:06am

      Re:

      Oh yes, awesome idea. Except it's still bad. If the servers get shut down you lose your game. If you go to your grandma who lives in a house with no internet (or frankly you go to the middle of nowhere to rest) and feel like playing it then forget it.

      Seriously, make the damn think offline capable. Diablo III is the prime example of what NOT to buy. The only reason I ever played it is because I earned it because of my annual WOW subscription. Now, if the pirates came with a way to emulate the servers and play it offline then it's pure win.

      My Diablo II, ORIGINAL, still works offline right out of the box.

       

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      That One Guy (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Spore's particular brand of DRM exactly that, where it would hit up a server every so often to 'verify' the game, and without that it bricked?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:22am

      Re:

      well, something like that would be cracked in all of 5 minutes. Then as usual you'd just be hurting your own legitimate customers.

      The point is, Pirates are so crafty that EA has to basically blackmail them by threatening to frag the people who actually buy the game to try and get them to stop pirating.

      Why not copy the mobile market, and upload a "free" version themselves that has missing features and displays ads? At least then the only people you're hurting is the ones that aren't paying...

       

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        Ninja (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:48am

        Re: Re:

        Why not copy the mobile market, and upload a "free" version themselves that has missing features and displays ads? At least then the only people you're hurting is the ones that aren't paying...

        And when the company goes boom the game also dies. Not to mention there are many going this route and they are trying to milk even more from you. You need to fork $3 to unlock feature X, $2 for Y, $4 for Z, $3 for some optional feature that severely undermines playability if you don't have it, $5 for more in-game currency that's insanely hard to get if you don't buy etc etc etc. And in the end you still spend $60 for a game you don't own. Thanks but no thanks.

         

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      Anonymous Cowherd, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:21am

      Re:

      I don't touch games that "ping a server" at all. Even just during install. I don't buy products that phone home to ask the manufacturer for permission when I want to use it. I bought it, it's mine, and if it's asking permission from someone it should be me. Anything else is an insult.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:28am

        Re: Re:

        I firewall off all applications by default, so they can't phone home. If this prevents them from working, I return them as defective.

         

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        Rikuo (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 12:19pm

        Re: Re:

        Years ago, when I bought the PC version of Bioshock 1, at the end of the installation process, it phoned home so it could download the actual Bioshock.exe (of course it didn't say straight out exactly what it was doing). As you might expect, it failed completely, with my internet connection working just fine. Afterward, I was surprised to learn that I was missing a certain game folder. The installer had the temerity to delete the entire thing if it failed at the end. So I had the notion to try again, wait until it said it needed to go online, and then renamed the folder to zBioshock. It failed, but because it didn't know the folder had been changed, it didn't delete it. It was only then that I was able to investigate and find out what I missing, when after poking around inside the folder, I found no executable.
        I went to a certain website, downloaded the crack, and was able to play.

        To make a stupid car analogy, this is like Ford building me a car, the engineer then phones the factory to find out where the key is, can't connect, then blows up the car and simply tells me he failed, whereupon I tell him to build another car and hide it when he tries and fails to make that important phone call. I then find someone with the same model car and they gladly clone their key for me.

         

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    Defacto (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:02am

    So what's the solution?

    I bought a hardcopy of SimCity from Amazon and started playing last Friday. I thought things were a bit weird when I read the license agreement which really didn't seem like a license agreement at all. It was more of a limited right to play. I actually considered not installing the game based on the terms and conditions.

    Anyway, I immediately had problems connecting to a server when I did decide to move forward. I ended up getting the game to work after a couple of minutes and played hypnotically for several hours and finally went to bed at 1:30. The next morning everything was gone. I couldn't believe it! All that time and energy and nothing to show for it.

    I can understand the frustration of creating something and not getting paid for your work. That's why I have never ever NOT paid for a software program. I believe that the creators deserve to be paid for their work and stealing software by not paying for it is stealing and makes the market ultimately unsustainable. Making honest people feel dirty isn't an answer though.

    Yesterday an interesting thing happened while playing. I took a break from my game play only to return and have the Origins app tell me that I was signed on on another computer and would be knocked off the game if I proceeded. Only thing is, I hadn't logged on anywhere else. Either there servers were wrong or my Orgins account had already been hacked.

     

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    Berenerd (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:19am

    Starcraft II

    Starcraft used to be able to play offline but had to connect for multiplayer (not by design, there was a hack for it to do it) Now they updated it and yeah, can't do it anymore. Guess I will stop playing now.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:45am

    You want to tell me how much it costs? Then tell me how much is the salary of the designers, the executive producers, the top executives at EA who demanded this measure, compared to the programmers and artists who made the game. Then look at this debacle and tell me if the salary of said designers and producers and executives changed in any way.

    Sorry, but it is all according to plan. What is the plan? To use a name to take money out of suckers of a franchise.

    Does it harm the company? Just as much as the top execs of the banks that went bankrupt during the crisis still got out with absurd salaries and bonuses. The company matters not for the people at the top, and as long as they can profit, nothing will change.

     

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    Jeff Rivett (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:39am

    Making matters worse for EA...

    Assuming they ever pull their collective heads out of their asses and stops wasting money on copy protection, it's going to take EA a long time to regain any customer goodwill lost by years of abuse. People who wouldn't normally download pirated games will do so simply out of spite. Allowing their games to be easier to pirate is still EA's best long-term strategy, but in the short term, they are going to lose more to piracy than your average game publisher, even after they smarten up.

     

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    Colin, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 9:52am

    "But you put your faith in us. You bought the game with the understanding that we’d quickly fix the server issues. For that support – that incredible commitment from our fans -- we are deeply grateful."

    http://www.simcity.com/en_US/blog/article/simcity-update-4

    Pretty sure no one bought the game hoping that they'd fix stuff that was broken because of EA/Maxis' own design - they probably bought it hoping it wouldn't be fucking broken.

     

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      S7, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 10:04am

      Re:

      That quote sounds like something Notch would say during the Alpha period of Minecraft. The difference here is, people who bought into Minecraft during Alpha knew they were getting a buggy game at a reduced price, from a small developer, and we were all along for the ride.


      EA is supposed to be a AAA developer, there was no reduced price, and people were still sold Alpha software.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 10:19am

      Re:

      I'm sure they have data to back up that claim. Here's the poll I got (sarc):

      Questionairre #1
      I purchased EA SimCity 5 because:
      X a. I trust EA to fix this broken POS
      b. my employer's logo is the pedobear
      c. The U.S. Congress always looks out for the little guy

       

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    Djinnx (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 11:16am

    All the bitching, bad reviews and angry gamers in the world don't mean a thing to the business people at EA. All they care about are the sales figures. Numbers.

    SimCity is a legacy seller, casual buyers will still be picking it up from Wal-Mart shelves in five years, and EA knows that. A few weeks of internet tantrums don't mean a thing to them. You have to show them, with your wallet.

    Every angry gamer who actually bought a copy of the game and then bitched about it just made it better for EA and worse for the gamers. We all knew better, and many of you bought it anyway.

    Your bitching doesn't matter. Your buying it did.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 11:17am

    I really don't care that Simcity was a bust. EA and Ubisoft have been doing stuff to tee off their customers for year. Just whey you think they can't get any dafter over piracy, up pops a new scenario that proves you wrong.

    I quit buying games from both of those companies years ago and refuse to spend money for any of their games. I'd hate to think what it has cost them during that time as I am an avid gamer.

    But if you think Simcity is worth it, go for it. It won't be my money supporting them as I've had enough of their idiocy. You're always gonna get screwed when you buy their games. At some point you have to learn or deserve what you get by continuing to fund their ill thought out methods.

    I do my best every time I run across bad press articles for these two outfits to add to the pile. If you buy their games you deserve what you get, is what I have learned is pretty much their attitude.

    Notice the free games to make you feel better over a bad purchase are still loaded with the same DRM crap.

    Thank you but no thank you.

     

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    Brent (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 11:58am

    Aside from 'piracy', wouldn't you think it would be obvious that there are really, really good reasons to play any game offline? Such as on a road trip, on the bus, on the plane, when your parents ground you via restricting internet access, etc? I know that is not a large percentage and never will be but how would that not be obvious to anyone/everyone both making this game and interested in buying this game?

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 12:23pm

    Okay so the reasoning process here has got to be fucked up.

    They want to sell a game, but hate it when people copy it and play for free, so they go about designing the most evil DRM imaginable (well, at least for 2013, I'm sure the title of most evil will be given to some new contender in the years ahead), that fucks up the playing experience of the paying customer.
    They don't know, realize or care, that this will result in a lot of bad PR.
    So, in order to placate their customers, they're now saying "You can pick a game and its yours for free".


    Uh...EA...wasn't that exactly WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO AVOID?

     

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    nineplymaple, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 1:31pm

    Some more calculations

    I also did some calculations as to the impact of piracy on a game's revenue, using extrapolated data, and some wild guesses.

    There are about 10,000 people seeding Skyrim on The Pirate Bay, and the PC version has sold about 1.4 million copies at the time of writing, grossing $87 million. Let’s guess that out of all the people who have downloaded Skyrim illegally, only 10% of them are seeding it, and let’s delude ourselves into thinking that every one of those people would have actually purchased the game if they couldn’t pirate it. At $60 per sale, (even though the game is currently $40 on Steam) Bethesda’s current “losses” on Skyrim PC piracy would be about $6 million, or 7% of total revenue.

    There is no way to know the exact impact, but the question remains: How many sales are you willing to sacrifice to stop a 7% rate of piracy? This move by EA feels more spiteful and vindictive toward pirates than it does like a strategy for making more money.

    There is no SimCity Real-Money Auction House. It would make sense if EA had a strategy for monetizing always-online gameplay, like Blizzard, but they don't. Running the servers costs them a ton of money, and the server problems have certainly cost them sales. The only thing EA gains from requiring a constant connection is the moral superiority of knowing they beat the pirates... for now.

    EA is spending more money to sell fewer games, and doesn't have a way to recover their massive operating expenses. Even from a business perspective, I fail to see how EA benefits from slapping their paying customers in the face.

     

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    FM Hilton, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 3:32pm

    What happens now?

    "To the point, Ea will shut down the servers within 4 years, and Walmart will still have it on the shelf after 5 years."

    That's assuming that anyone will care to play this game in 1 year-or even 3 months.

    That's how bad this debacle of a debut is: it's ludicrous and stupid all at the same time.

    Meanwhile, EA makes millions of dollars from people who like wasting their money.

    "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the best quarter we've ever had!"

     

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    sehlat (profile), Mar 11th, 2013 @ 4:11pm

    Two Reasons A Game Isn't Pirated

    1. The DRM is simply too tough to crack. (giggles uncontrollably)

    2. So bad it's not worth playing in the first place.

    I'll take "Keeping My Money" for $60, Alex.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2013 @ 5:46pm

    You know there's a massive nerve being hit when even the usual trolls won't show up.

     

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    totalz (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 1:01am

    So the actual worth of this game is about $6... It's well bloody over-priced!

     

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