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Sim SaaS – Ravings On The Sim City Failure

simcity-mayorSim City failed pretty hard. If you’re a gamer you’re probably either still pissed that your game hasn’t worked for quite a while or have at least heard complaints about it. For those who may not have heard let me outline what happened. Sim City is a game published by EA that as far as most people knew resembled something like the Sim City games of yore. That is a heavy emphasis on single player city building and management. This as you might guess is not what people got. What people got was an Internet connected game that they were told is required to be always on and could not be disjoined from it’s online components. To put it bluntly the server portion of the game failed hard for unforseen reasons and stayed failed for upwards of a couple weeks.  As is typical for EA they haven’t been forth coming about what the cause of the outage/failure was and we may never know.

I didn’t buy the game, I’m glad, and I don’t plan to either so I think, unlike many of the game reviewers and owners of the game, I’ve got a little bit of perspective. I’ve also been dealing with software and hardware on both sides of the system being a Gamer, System Builder and Workstation Technician as well as being a System Administrator and Enterprise System Analyst. In the industry we have a similar system to what Sim City is. Software As A Service or SaaS.  It’s a system of software reliant on a server so that it can be controlled and shut off when not being paid for. We’re seeing more and more such SaaS systems in gaming. The primary examples are MMOs but even things like online first person shooters that do not include a form of single player.

Now two things tend to seperate regular corporate SaaS from video game SaaS. The first thing is that SaaS is usually a continuing payment so at least MMO’s meet that requirement. The second is that SaaS usually has some kind of SLA or service level agreement. This second requirement brings me to my point. We, gamers, almost need to insist that publishers and developers provide an SLA for our games. Software that we seem to pay ever rising prices for. I’m sure some may scoff at this but if you think about the fact that when services and products of almost every other kind are broken it’s not okay. When you buy something at a store and it doesn’t work as advertised you take it back or exchange it. When software as a service fails to work and the SLA isn’t met the provider pays a penalty or you cancel service for breach of contract. And yet with games we have no recourse. You can’t return a digital downloaded game and get your money back. You can’t hold EA in breach of SLA/contract. You are simply left out in the cold hoping maybe they might be forgiving and give you a nugget to make you feel better. This simply isn’t right. So what can we do?

We have agencys and groups like the Better Business Buerau and the EFF and many other types of groups that seek to protect consumers. And yet here we are, gamers, and seem to have no such groups. There are also many watch dog groups for other industries but we don’t seem to have that in gaming. This is the only way I can think to hold these companies accountable.

So who will rise to champion for the gamers? Does any one know how such groups come to be? What other ways can we protect ourselves from the fleecing of the masses that EA continues to embark on?


3 responses

  1. Well, there’s the Entertainment Consumers Association, but they’re really focused more on protecting video game consumers through working with the government rather than individual companies. The Better Business Bureau still works on video games companies, though. If the shafting is dire enough, gamers can and should file complaints through that organization. That way, at least there are consequences if they don’t make a ‘reasonable’ effort to make things right. And of course, there’s good old fashioned griping on the internet. Get enough people doing it, and it’s often a more powerful force than it may seem. I know I’ve pretty much sworn off SimCity because of the well-publicized issues, and I’m sure many others have as well.

    18 March 2013 at 11:57 pm

    • Sure, some of those channels kind of cover the gaming space but they are all reactionary and don’t hold much sway which is why EA can get away with it in the first place. The real thing that would serve as a wake-up call to EA would be for gamers, en mass, to simply withhold their dollars. Even if for only one week after launch of what ever uber game is selected as the target. The problem is people are generally weak and not disciplined enough to pull it off. That’s the reason I went with the idea of a group who could serve the community in the capacity I suggested. May be it just needs to be a group of people loud enough to get the attention of pre-existing agencies like the BBB. IDK I post a lot of half baked ideas that sound great in theory in the hopes that it will help other people generate even better ideas. The Internet is certainly smarter than me.

      19 March 2013 at 5:17 am

  2. A boycott is a great idea, although I agree that the likelihood of it happening is pretty darn low. Personally I don’t feel like the Sim City debacle should be allowed to be forgotten, just because it is really the sum of the error in EA’s more recent business strategy. It shows why always-online is, in every case I’ve seen so far, a huge mistake for single-player games, and furthermore, shows that EA is fine with taking a dookie on the consumer in order to secure those dollars that trickle out of the pile as a result of piracy.
    Regardless, I know I won’t be buying any EA titles soon.

    21 March 2013 at 9:56 pm