from the reticulating-splines dept
Let me tell you a story. Two years ago, the world’s most hated video game company, Electronic Arts, decided to lay waste to one of the greatest franchises in history: SimCity. It did this in multiple ways. First, it pretended like the game’s structure required an always-on internet connection, even though that wasn’t true. Then EA failed to properly plan for the launch-day success it somehow managed to have, which meant that the required but not necessary internet connection was causing game servers to fail all over the place and rendering customers into would-be-game-players. The company was then voted as the “Worst Company In America” in a Consumerist poll. As a result of all that backlash, EA reformed its ways and released a mobile version of SimCity that is both customer friendly and stays true to the franchise’s roots as a thank you to all of its loyal fans.
Haha, just kidding, EA totally fucked it up again. Their mobile game breaks the SimCity game mechanics and models entirely in favor of timer- or micropayment-based resource collection. And when I say resource collection, I mean on a level that’s absolutely ridiculous.
SimCity fans, how much do you love timer-based resource-production as the primary means for growing your city? Let’s say that you zone some plots of land for houses. In most SimCity games, you tweak the tax code, improve the roads, maybe build a police station nearby and, bit by bit, those homes improve. In SimCity Buildit? You can do some of that, but the main way you improve the residential areas you’ve zoned is by dragging resources to them.
What kind of resources are we talking about? Well, you need nails, which you make out of steel at a supply shop and it takes five minutes for the game to create them…or you can just buy them for real-world cash. But where do you get that steel to begin with? Well, it’s made at the factory you built, and it takes minutes for that factory to replenish the steel girders you’ve already used…or you can just buy them for real-world cash. You can only develop your zones if you have enough — wait for it– hammers, which take 14 minutes to create for some reason, and only then if you have enough wood to make those goddamned hammers and now I’m starting to get frustrated…or you can just buy all this stuff for real-world cash. Getting the point? More importantly, does this remotely sound like any kind of SimCity game you’ve played in the past?
As the post points out, you can play the game without spending real-world money, but only in laughably truncated spurts that feel less like SimCity and more like CIA torture. From one review in the app store:
“They call you a ‘Mayor’ but a mayor doesn’t have to work in the factories and ask for more stock every 2-5 minutes, and have to collect it personally in each factory.”
Now, Kotaku goes on to declare that because Electronic Arts is the Dr. Evil of gaming companies, this means that all free-to-play is a scam and is destroying all of humanity. But that’s just because Kotaku gets kind of stupid with some of this stuff. The real lesson here is that if you design your game with the “extract the most money as possible” frame of mind first and the wants/needs of your fans second, you’re going to generate pissed off reviews. After all, it’s not as though free to play hasn’t worked wonderfully in the past.
But, you know, Electronic Arts.