From SimCity, Electronic Arts, 2013

From The New Inquiry:

SimCity, Electronic Arts’ online multiplayer reboot of the long-­running SimCity franchise, was supposed to be available for download and play on March 5, 2013. The download part mostly worked. The play part did not.

The problems were wonderfully and excitingly diverse. Servers refused to authenticate people’s games, friend lists didn’t show up, and many players received the ominous message “unable to create your city at this time.” A day after, the issues weren’t resolved and people were getting angry. The very concept of “launch” is that the game launches and you’re able to play the game you paid for from the launch date on. The game should function, should be complete. The most egregious bugs should be worked out ahead of time. “Launch” is not “beta-testing.”

The problem — and this became very obvious, very quickly to most people — was that SimCity was designed to be played with an always-on Internet connection. It required authentication by EA’s servers to work at all. EA claimed that authentication was only part of the deal; SimCity, the company said, was designed to function by offloading a significant number of the game’s calculations to EA’s servers. The always-on component was a crucial part of what made the game run. It would require “significant engineering,” EA said, to change.

Then some gamers noticed something interesting: SimCity could play offline. It could actually play offline beautifully — up until a 20-minute time limit. At that point, a code in the game would sense the length of the online disconnection and slam the door. If the game needed to be constantly online so that part of its computing load could be carried elsewhere, why those 20 minutes of play?

Why the time limit? Were the company spokespeople mistaken? Misinformed? Were they lying?

Everyone was talking about DRM except EA.

“Own to Rent”, Sarah Wanenchak, The New Inquiry