Two Bad Launches: Why Rockstar Is Succeeding Where EA Failed

from the post-mortem dept

Since recollections of the SimCity debacle have been re-conjured thanks to EA giving the finger to the modding community (read: mega-enormo fanbase), perhaps it's useful to examine how a painful launch doesn't have to turn your entire fan-base against a company. Unless you've been living under a rock that doesn't get a TV signal lately, you're probably aware that the latest iteration of Grand Theft Auto was recently released. One of the big draws of the game, the online component, wasn't available immediately, instead reserved to a tantalizing "coming soon" tab in the game's pause menu. Simply as disclosure, I know this because I'm a paying GTA customer.

Well, the GTA Online launch kicked off this week and it went about as smooth as Hugh Jackman's face after he hasn't shaved for twenty-six days. The vast majority of gamers couldn't even get the online portion of the game to launch due to crowded server issues, and those that did faced problems with getting the game to behave correctly. So, you imagine Rockstar got the same response as EA, right? Wrong. Because Rockstar told everyone that things were going to be rocky and have since proved that it's at least as interested in fixing the issues as it is in making money. See the following warning:
There will be the typical growing pains for an online game, including but not limited to crashes, glitches, crazy bugs, gameplay modes and mechanics that need re-balancing and other surprises! Even in GTAV Story Mode, some of you may have seen a few odd and even amusing little glitches out there last week. This sort of thing is inevitable in a massive open-world game and there’ll surely be lots more unexpected oddities like this in the Online world next week – rest assured we’ll be monitoring and actively doing all we can to smooth such things out as they happen, but we need your help to find them, as well as your feedback to help fine tune all of the game's systems so everything is perfectly balanced.
This stands in stark contrast to EA's launch of SimCity, which resulted in most of the same feedback they received when it announced the game and in beta: stop it with the always-online crap. EA wasn't willing to listen to its users, where Rockstar is actively recruiting the feedback. This makes a world of difference, including creating a sense of unity between the game makers and their fans. It's important and it's something EA got horribly wrong.

As for how it's handling things post-not-awesome-launch? Well, in addition to going the normal route of actively informing fans what is currently going wrong, what it's doing to make fixes, and how it's going to do so, Rockstar told people it doesn't want their money until it gets things right for everyone.
For the time being and until we have been able to get everybody access to GTA Online and things are running smoothly, we have disabled the option of purchasable GTA$ cash packs. Players can however keep on earning GTA$ by pulling off Jobs and other profitable gameplay activities rather than purchasing cash packs.
Can you even imagine a fantasy world where EA refuses to sell you things until it gets the core game stable? It certainly didn't happen with SimCity. Once again, connecting with your fans and being awesome will get you everything in the gaming world. Sure, people are frustrated with how GTA Online has performed thus far, but nobody is calling for heads to roll. Rockstar can take full credit for that.

Filed Under: growing pains, gta 5, launches, simcity, video games
Companies: ea, rockstar


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  1. identicon
    LCD, 7 Oct 2013 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I feel that your frustration comes from the truth that games aren't perfect.

    Things do out the door incomplete and partly broken, like I suggested, there are a bazillion things to deal with to get a game out the door and there are risks to everything. At any given point dev teams are faced with "fix it, strip it, delay it or ship it". At some point you have to determine if the quality on whole is enough so you can ship it or delay if you have to delay it (SimCity on Mac delayed twice and launched 6 months after the pc version-but you got both anyway). But when you delay it is expensive... marketing costs, sales lost because the lack of buzz of the launch. If you ship it does it 'good enough'. Ever game team has to make that choice under different circumstances. Ahh you say that you should QA and test!... well that is very, very, very expensive and game teams do a LOT of testing... but even 1000 QA testers can't find all the things wrong that a million users can in a shorter time. Now add the differences in PC configurations!

    You show me a game that went out the door 'truly finished' and I will show you a game team that either cut most of their advanced/beloved features out of the release or delayed their launch, or went financially or emotionally broke trying to make it.

    Games at least can be patched and game teams take advantage of that nowadays. Look at BF3 and Sims 3... they put out patches for a long time (you used to get 1-3 patches MAX from a dev team). And event that isn't a given.. Recently the devs for Terraria (a game I like) publicly said at release "that was it, no more stuff"... it was only peer pressure and popularity that they came out with an update to fix some things and add also added some new content (that they probably had to leave out for launch).

    And it isn't just games that don't get it right the first time, cars get recalled, so do strollers, Operation Systems get patches, text books go to the printer with typos and wrong data, the list goes on.

    But I think the a chunk of your comment is frustration that is rooted in something even deeper than how a company handles issues on launch....

    It is that how you buy and play games is changing. Many games now are dependent on a service that is kept going that could disappear anytime. It is a cultural change related to most digital goods that as a whole haven't figured out. See streaming move services, digital books, iTunes etc. What is the expectation for how long your are

    I wish you the best of luck finding a game dev that doesn't believe in DRM and still sells discs. I encourage you to look for non-DRM games (See GOG) and keep playing something even if it isn't the big titles. But you have to live with that trade off of not playing 'the latest thing'.

    I would also suggest that you encourage others to be good examples for why you DON'T need DRM or online services (i.e. tell people not to pirate for dumb reasons). Maybe you will be successful in bringing the game industry away from the policies you don't like. Ford made really crappy cars for a long time but somehow survived (*cough* bailout).. and now they seem to have changed for the better. I think EA is in the same boat... but without the bailout.

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