If you’ve played some of the earlier SIM City games, you might remember the news ticker and its strangely charming “news reports” about things going on in your city or SIM nation. Today’s headline is in homage to that style. For one reason or another the staff at Maxis games had an obsession over llamas, and based on a 2000 interview the original architect revealed why (here is the entire interview):
Question from strat440: Why are there so many references to llamas in “SimCity”?
Will Wright: Good question. Actually, many years ago, we had a company-wide vote for our informal company-wide mascot, and the choices came down to the Boston tree fern, beef tape worm and a llama. And somehow the llama won the vote!
In case you missed it, “SIMs Devastated as Llama Fund Dries Up, Opens Micro Black Hole” is a reference to the huge debacle faced by developer company Maxis and current parent company Electronic Arts (EA) on the latest SIM City release this past Tuesday, March 5, 2013. In short, folks that had already spent countless hours building their municipality were suddenly kicked offline and all of their work disappeared forever. As of late as Friday, there were still legions of SIM fans demanding refunds due to ongoing poor access to play the game along with a host of companion issues from the blackout. There is even a Change.org petition going around about the issue that features a video of what is considered by gamers to now be a “broken promise” issued by a producer of the game.
As I read the comments in various forums, it appears EA was slow to respond to refund requests at first. By the weekend, EA seems to have finally ironed out customer service policy from the top on down to service agents in order to please irate gamers.
You might be wondering, how did all this happen, can’t people just not go online to play this? Nope.
Also, the game was built with the hopes that entire regions of cities could be crowdsourced together by all the users combining their individual efforts, a virtually-based positive economic impact if you will.
Here are some other problems that have stemmed from the blackout issue:
- Beta testers are wondering why did they even bother? Beta testers are usually volunteers and their reward is knowing they contributed to a game that works correctly. (Saw this as miscellaneous gripes posted in forums).
- EA buyout of Maxis (creator of SIM City), bigger game company = bad for gamers and a headache for its marketing staff?
- Server capacity was very low despite EA being aware the latest SIM City was highly anticipated.
- Coupons for free games, kinda-sorta maybe.
In the past, major game companies always had a leg up on being able to distribute game discs and cartridges through standard retail channels. Now that game distribution is being pushed more into cloud-based services, foul-ups such as this leave companies such as EA in a very vulnerable position of staying at the top of the heap for the longer term. The success of such indie online games like Minecraft and a whole host of app-based games like Rovio’s Angry Birds, who used to make games FOR EA, was nearly bankrupt in 2009 and somehow set out on their own to release the smash hit, point to building evidence that a relative no-name can grab market share quite quickly if the game play and access to the games works fine.
Among others, a special thanks to the crew over at Polygon.com, it’s a great site that has a real pulse on the gaming world if you’re in to that and I have found it to be a great resource throughout my IMC 619 Emerging Media and the Market course and this particular blog post.
While I am bummed to see this happen to the denizens tethered to the PC-only release, I’m hopeful that the MAC version coming out later while leave me pleased as punch. Otherwise I’ll be