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'SimCity' launches to critical acclaim and crippling server problems

After a first wave of highly favorable reviews, EA's long-awaited SimCity proved unable to handle the load of players at launch, leaving them unable to connect. Though the company quickly began upgrading its servers, persistent problems led EA to disable "non-critical" gameplay features and briefly stop promoting SimCity altogether.

  • Dante D'Orazio

    Mar 18, 2014

    Dante D'Orazio

    A year after troublesome launch, 'SimCity' finally gets an offline mode

    When SimCity came out last March, critics were thrilled with the beloved series' first game in nearly a decade. But no one could praise publisher EA's handling of the launch, which was chronically plagued with server issues that left players stuck with a game they couldn't play. Now, after an entire year, developer Maxis is giving SimCity players what they've been asking for: a way to play the game offline.

    Update 10, available today, brings a single player mode to the game. Instead of the always-online multiplayer experience that the title launched with, players will be able to nurture their own cities without worrying about neighbors damaging their metropolis — or troublesome servers meddling with their gameplay.

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  • Andrew Webster

    Jan 13, 2014

    Andrew Webster

    'SimCity' is finally getting an offline mode

    SimCity Cities of the Future
    SimCity Cities of the Future

    It's been a long time coming, but the troubled SimCity is finally getting an offline mode. The game originally launched in March of last year to critical acclaim, but ongoing server problems meant that its always-online requirement made it largely unplayable for many gamers. Developer Maxis previously hinted that an offline mode was in the works back in October, and now it has finally confirmed the news.

    "When we launch it, all of your previously downloaded content will be available to you anytime, anywhere, without the need for an internet connection," says Patrick Buechner, GM of Maxis' Emeryville studio. Unfortunately, there's still no hard date for when the update will be launched, with Buechner saying simply that "we look forward to getting offline for SimCity into your hands as soon as possible."

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  • 'SimCity' may get an offline mode after all

    simcity
    simcity

    SimCity may finally drop the online-only requirement that brought the game to a grinding halt for many players during its launch week. The game's developer, Maxis, originally said that SimCity had to be played online in order to offload certain strenuous work into the cloud, but doing so meant that players couldn't run the game if they didn't have an internet connection or — as often occurred — if the game's servers were down. Now Maxis says that it's "exploring the possibility" of adding an offline mode — a change that players have been requesting since its launch in March.

    Maxis' phrasing leaves open the chance that such an update will be scrapped, but the developer sounds as though it means to follow through. "We would like to give our players the ability to play even if they choose not to connect," Patrick Buechner, a general manager at Maxis, writes in a blog post. He writes that Maxis isn't sure when it'll have more information to share, but that it has set up a team to look into the matter.

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  • Andrew Webster

    Sep 19, 2013

    Andrew Webster

    The first 'SimCity' expansion takes the game into the future

    SimCity Cities of the Future
    SimCity Cities of the Future

    If you managed to get past the technical issues and really dig into SimCity earlier this year, there's good news, as EA has just announced the city-building game's very first expansion. Dubbed Cities of the Future, the expansion lets you create a metropolis using technologies that could exist in the next 50-75 years. That includes everything from flying delivery drones and elevated maglev trains to giant, mega-skyscrapers that look ripped right out Blade Runner. We don't have too many other details, though IGN has a brief video preview that you can check out below. No price has been revealed just yet, but Cities of the Future is expected to launch on November 12th.

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  • Sean Hollister

    Aug 30, 2013

    Sean Hollister

    Déjà vu: 'SimCity' for Mac struggles with day-one issues (update)

    SimCity City Hall Protest
    SimCity City Hall Protest

    For instance, the game doesn't presently support Mac OS 10.7.4 and earlier versions of the operating system (despite advertising otherwise), and a number of players are experiencing situations where pressing the "Install" button won't install the game. Electronic Arts is advising players to switch their entire operating system's default language to English and / or install a beta version of its Origin digital distribution platform to get things working properly.

    However, others cite potentially more serious issues with the program, ones which EA has yet to address. A number of forum posters claim that the Mac port of the game runs terribly on their computers, even when they allegedly run the game fine in Windows on top of the same hardware. Quite a few also claim the Mac version of the game doesn't support high resolutions, up to and including that of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. 27-inch iMac users are allegedly stuck at 1920 x 1440 rather than the full 2560 x 1440 resolution of their monitor, while a couple of Retina users claim they can't go past 1440 x 900 and can't make the game stretch across the full screen. Seems like it might be time to make use of EA's new no-questions-asked refund policy.

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  • Laura June

    Jun 6, 2013

    Laura June

    'SimCity' for Mac delayed until August

    SimCity Big Buildings
    SimCity Big Buildings

    EA Maxis has announced today that the Mac version of its very popular but beleaguered PC game SimCity will be delayed until August, with no more specific date given. The developer had previously announced in April that the Mac version would be available on June 11th, just five days from now. "We have made this tough decision because we do not believe [the Mac version] is ready for prime time yet," Kip Katsarelis, SimCity's senior producer, wrote on EA's website.

    The launch of SimCity in March was plagued with server issues and connectivity problems, which left EA in the tough position of having to disable critical features for periods of time and even to stop promoting the game briefly while it rushed to make corrections and upgrades. EA has additionally said that when the Mac version does launch, players will receive the SimCity Launch Park, a special area of the game which opened for the PC version last month with the fourth update to the game.

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  • Adi Robertson

    May 9, 2013

    Adi Robertson

    Why 'SimCity' has no parking lots, and other insights from the lead designer

    SimCity Big Buildings
    SimCity Big Buildings

    "Our game was going to be really boring if it was proportional in terms of parking lots," SimCity lead designer Stone Librande says of his decision to simply pretend the game's parking is underground. It's one of many decisions Librande and his team had to make when building their world simulation — adding some details created fascinating emergent phenomena like in-game traffic jams, but other things, like food supply chains, just wouldn't fit. At The Atlantic, Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley interview Librande about how he prepared for the game and what people ended up taking out of it, whether they chose to build a fantasy city or engage in a Starcraft-esque resource management war.

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  • Adi Robertson

    May 8, 2013

    Adi Robertson

    Original 'SimCity' creator Will Wright calls EA's botched game launch 'inexcusable'

    simcity
    simcity

    EA has been roundly thrashed for the rocky launch of SimCity, and Will Wright — who designed the original SimCity title and co-founded studio Maxis before leaving for other projects — says the company should have seen it coming. Wright told GamesIndustry International that the new SimCity was "a good game; I enjoy playing it a lot." But he expressed sympathy for the team, saying "I could have predicted — I kind of did predict there'd be a big backlash about the DRM stuff." He has stronger words for the launch itself, which left many people unable to play at all for days on end due to the need to connect to a game server.

    "It was kind of like, 'EA is the evil empire, there was a lot of 'Let's bash EA over it,'" Wright said in the interview, possibly referencing EA's election as the worst company in America. "That was basically inexcusable, that you charge somebody $60 for a game and they can't play it. I can understand the outrage. If I was a consumer buying the game and that happened to me, I'd feel the same." While EA has denied that the always-on requirement for SimCity was meant as DRM, the generally single-player nature of the game made the constant connection seem unnecessary at best.

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  • Matt Brian

    Apr 10, 2013

    Matt Brian

    'SimCity' for Mac available starting on June 11th

    SimCity Police
    SimCity Police

    Hoping that it can put the launch issues of the PC version behind it, EA has announced the availability of SimCity for Mac. The company says that from June 11th, you'll will be able to purchase a copy of SimCity on its Origin games distribution platform and receive a copy playable on both the Mac and PC. That means if you have already purchased the PC version, you'll now be able to download it and play on the Mac for no extra charge.

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  • Nathan Ingraham

    Mar 18, 2013

    Nathan Ingraham

    EA CEO John Riccitiello stepping down on March 30th

    EA electronic arts logo
    EA electronic arts logo

    EA CEO John Riccitiello is stepping down from the video game giant as of March 30th, the company announced today. His departure comes at a time when EA is struggling with public perception over the troubled launch of SimCity, but the company also simultaneously announced that the game has sold more than one million copies since launching two weeks ago.

    The circumstances surrounding Riccitiello's departure aren't clear yet; EA's press release indicates that both the former CEO and newly-appointed Executive Chairman Larry Probst (who served as EA CEO from 1991 until 2007) came to a mutual agreement that the time was right for Riccitiello to move on. Riccitiello has served as CEO since 2007, replacing Probst. As for a new CEO, Probst will lead a search that EA says will include both internal and external candidates.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    Mar 18, 2013

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    EA limits 'SimCity' free game apology offer, but includes major titles

    simcity
    simcity

    Electronic Arts has announced the titles that it will offer SimCity owners for free as an apology for the server issues that plagued the game's launch and left it often unplayable. The company is offering a choice between eight titles: Battlefield 3, Bejeweled 3, Dead Space 3, Mass Effect 3, Medal of Honor Warfighter, Need for Speed Most Wanted, Plants vs. Zombies, and SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition. The list is certainly whittled down from the original stipulation-free offer of a "game from the EA portfolio," but many of the titles, such as Dead Space 3, are worth nearly as much as SimCity itself. Titles like Bejeweled 3 and Plants vs. Zombies are a significantly smaller giveaway from the company, but given SimCity's broad appeal EA may have felt the need to include more casual offerings as well.

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  • Adi Robertson

    Mar 14, 2013

    Adi Robertson

    EA finishes 'SimCity' server upgrades after troubled launch

    SimCity City Hall Protest
    SimCity City Hall Protest

    EA and Maxis have completed a series of server upgrades that will hopefully solve the ongoing connection problems with SimCity. In a blog post, Maxis' Barrie Tingle said that the team had migrated all the original servers to "faster/higher capacity server architecture." A dedicated page listing the status of each server was also launched yesterday; while there were some lingering problems at that point, the page now shows an all-clear, albeit at a low-stress time. In addition to the server upgrades, a new patch promises to improve "trade intermittency issues," speeding up gameplay within regions.

    The new servers have been in the works since shortly after launch, when a large proportion of players were unable to connect to the game's existing servers. EA briefly suspended its marketing campaign, and Maxis admitted it had underestimated how many people would play. While the lack of an offline mode may continue to frustrate some players, SimCity's server problems are hopefully almost at an end.

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  • Bryan Bishop

    Mar 9, 2013

    Bryan Bishop

    EA offering free game as apology for 'SimCity' issues

    SimCity Police
    SimCity Police

    Electronic Arts' launch of the new SimCity game has been plagued by server issues, resulting in everything from features being taken offline to EA calling off some of its promotional efforts for the game. The company hopes to make up for it, however, by offering a free game to users. In a blog post tonight, Maxis' Lucy Bradshaw apologized for the problems, admitting that the game's developers simply underestimated the number of people that would sign online to play the title. "A lot more people logged on than we expected," she writes in the post. "More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta."

    As compensation, the company will be offering a free downloadable PC game from EA's portfolio. Registered SimCity owners will be emailed on March 18th with instructions on how to obtain their game of choice.

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  • Bryan Bishop

    Mar 8, 2013

    Bryan Bishop

    'SimCity' marketing campaign put on hold, EA requests that affiliates do the same

    SimCity Big Buildings
    SimCity Big Buildings

    Electronic Arts has faced a number of problems with the latest SimCity since launching the title, and the ongoing issues have now led the company to call off some of its online marketing — and it's asking affiliates to do the same. Polygon reports that EA has sent an email out to members of EA Origin's LinkShare program, informing them that it has "deactivated all SimCity text links and creative," and is requesting that members of the program do so as well. EA will still pay commissions to program members for any referred sales, and pledges to let members know when it resumes the marketing efforts.

    It's just the latest reaction in what has become a truly embarrassing snafu. Earlier this week "non-critical" features of the game were turned off, while Amazon has suspended digital sales of the game due to the overwhelming number of customer complaints. Polygon has also reported on an internal memo from developer Maxis about the steps it is taking to stabilize the situation, but it's still not clear when SimCity players can expect the game to function as advertised.

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  • Chris Welch

    Mar 7, 2013

    Chris Welch

    Amazon suspends 'SimCity' digital orders as customer complaints surge (update)

    SimCity Amazon
    SimCity Amazon

    Amazon has temporarily stopped offering digital purchases of SimCity, a move that's no doubt related to server-side issues which have plagued the game since its launch early this week. EA says it's working around the clock to patch up those problems, but in the meantime Amazon has cut off digital orders. The online retailer is still selling the boxed version of SimCity, however. But potential buyers of the physical copy are also being warned about SimCity's ongoing troubles. "Many customers are having issues connecting to the SimCity servers," the note says. "EA is actively working to resolve these issues, but at this time we do not know when the issue will be fixed." SimCity currently has a dismal rating of 1.5 stars on Amazon. As of this writing, 877 of 1,001 total ratings give the product just one star.

    Update: In the wake of Amazon's move, some customers who bought the game directly through EA's own digital distribution service Origin are seeking refunds — with poor results. Polygon reports that while one Reddit user claims that they managed to get a refund, most are being quoted EA's policy to not accept returns for any downloadable Origin titles. One who threatened a credit card chargeback was told that his Origin account would be banned if he did so, though EA has since clarified that it will not ban players seeking refunds in general.

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  • Nathan Ingraham

    Mar 7, 2013

    Nathan Ingraham

    EA disabling 'non-critical' features and adding more servers to address ongoing 'SimCity' connection issues

    SimCity Big Buildings
    SimCity Big Buildings

    While the latest SimCity launched to critical acclaim earlier this week, the game's online-only requirement has led to a rather frustrating launch window, plagued by delays thanks to the heavy load on EA's Origin servers. Now, EA is taking some steps to help get the game up to speed — the company announced that it will be deploying more servers over the next two days to help meet the demand. This announcement comes after the game launched in Australia and New Zealand — again with continuous server issues that the company said wouldn't be an issue for the game's international launch. Developer Maxis has also been helping to alleviate demand by adding and patching the game servers, but that only helps those who've been successful downloading and accessing the game from EA's Origin servers. While we're glad to see EA acknowledge and address the issues SimCity has had since launch, it might be best for interested players to sit things out for a week or two until things get squared away.

    Update: In addition to the new servers, EA is apparently taking the dramatic step of disabling some "non-critical" SimCity features, including leaderboards and achievements, in an effort to improve the "core gameplay experience." Ironically, these are the types of features that would require the game to be "online-only" in the first place, but hopefully this will make the experience of actually playing the game better.

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  • Adi Robertson

    Feb 15, 2013

    Adi Robertson

    Playing god and mayor with the first 'SimCity' game in a decade

    SimCity City Hall Protest
    SimCity City Hall Protest

    From what I can tell, SimCity was part of every child’s life but mine. I ran through a little SimCity 2000 on a neighbor’s Macintosh, but I never got a feel for the game; my memories are mostly of the intense stress of seeing my cities flail and crumble as citizens complained.

    So while most people seem to have an intensely nostalgic reaction to the series, I approached it with something closer to trepidation. When I got a chance to try out the first new SimCity produced in almost a decade, my inevitable excitement was tinged with worry. Was I going to muddle through an opaque world where I would know neither victory nor defeat? Would my own city somehow judge me for managing it poorly?

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  • Nathan Ingraham

    Jan 18, 2013

    Nathan Ingraham

    'SimCity' beta happening next weekend, lets players try the game for one hour

    simcity
    simcity

    Ahead of the highly-anticipated SimCity launch on March 5th, EA and Maxis have announced that users can beta test the game from Friday, January 25th through Monday, January 28th. Interested players can register for the beta now — but unfortunately, the beta test is limited to a one-hour sample, and it's also worth noting this is for PC users only. It's a bit of a tease, but at least gamers won't have to wait much longer for the full version. If you want to get your one-hour taste of SimCity, head here to sign up, then just get ready to squeeze as much out of that hour as you can next weekend.

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  • Nathan Ingraham

    Oct 24, 2012

    Nathan Ingraham

    'SimCity' reboot set to launch on March 5th in the US, March 8th in Europe

    simcity
    simcity

    It's been months since EA first announced a reboot for the SimCity franchise, but we finally know when the game will launch: the official SimCity Twitter account says the game will be available on March 5th in the US and March 8th in Europe. We already knew the game was scheduled to come early next year, though it seems the game has slipped a bit from the February launch window that we heard about back in August. The game will be noteworthy for running in the new Glassbox engine, which developer Maxis built in-house to provide more realistic simulations thanks to micro-level AI for every object in the game. While there's no pricing information yet, the game will be available through EA's Origin service and though the traditional DVD format for both Mac and PC. If you can't wait until March, PC players can register for the SimCity beta right here.

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