The Inevitable SimCity Launch Post

Look you knew it was coming.  I’ve been analyzing game careers for awhile, and then EA dumps a big pile of SimCity follies in my lap.  Of course I was going to write about.

If you didn’t hear what happened with SimCity 2013, here’s the skinny: EA’s latest version of the game required a persistent internet connection (yeah, DRM any way you slice it).  The downloads, the server load, etc. caused all sorts of outages that in turn made it awful hard for people to actually play the game they paid for.

Of course they were mocked understandable across the internet.  EA added more servers and offered a free game to early adopters – after removing the supposedly so-critical features that required an always-on-internet connection.  Marketing was apparently suspendedAmazon pulled downloads.  There’s a petition to just yank the DRM, and a Kickstarter for a DRM-free competitor.

And so, here I am, looking at the bizarre mess trying to figure what to say.  So first, let me get to my analysis.

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Dead Space In Your Face: Gaming and Rent-Seeking

Well, that was quick.

Last week I was discussing how monetization was going to be an issue in your gaming career – since there were many options that would obviously affect how you get paid.  Or if you get paid.  Or if you have any hope in hell of success.  Well, now I’m still talking about it – along with my current obsession of analyzing game careers, of course.

One of my inspirations for that post, by the way, was the weird news in Dead Space 3 about how one could purchase quicker collection of crafting materials.  Yes, a big console game that just happens to let you act like you’re in a typical free-to-play game, in a way that seemed kinda obvious.

EA was appropriately and mercilessly skewered by Penny Arcade, as was appropriate.  However they were also skewered by resource collecting bugs that made the micro transaction thing a null issue.

I’m wondering if they’ll patch it or not.

Here we see another risk to gaming – and a factor to take into any gaming career you may want to have.

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Watch The Prices Change

The president of THQ thinks we’re going to see console games get distributed like PC games (and goodbye $60 box).  Ea is going Freemium.  Even with the massive Zynga downturn, it seems that the days of the $60-box-game-in-a-store is fading away.

Of course none of us are surprised, we probably saw it coming.  My guess is that the “fade” will pick up after this Christmas, and we’ll even see some titles start going pure DLC, dropping the box they were planned for.  We’ll also see more Freemium, more “try before you buy,” and all the general confusion that follows a shift in pricing plans.

Now I expect the changes are inevitable.  Gaming is a changing industry, technology is a changing industry, the world economy is staggering like a drunken sailor of the non-fuku variety, and people want to make money.

However, these changes, despite building on existing trends, are still going to seem a bit alien and are going to have some odd effects.  So here’s Steve’s takeaways:

  • Gamestop is clearly aware of this to judge by their promotion of the Nexus 7.  They’ll have to stay on top of gaming and on top of deals, probably becoming a kind of micro-Best Buy focused on gaming and entertainment.  I think they can make it, but they’ll have to change.  Career-wise, GameStop may need some savvy business people – and if they integrate with other companies, tech people as well.
  • Best Buy is pretty much hosed anyway, but I think that a move like this will make it tougher on them IF they’re even around long enough to be affected.
  • Though downloadable is fine and acceptable to people, the entire Freemium thing is going to be weird and hard to implement.  Frankly I’m expecting another round of pricing experiments in 2013, many of which will be stupid or fail.  This is an opportunity for you econogeeks to advise companies.
  • At some point the weird Freemium pricing is going to annoy people and there will be some “scandalettes” bouncing around the gaming industry about weird charges, ripoffs, exploitation, etc.  We have that now, but this will be more public because the gaming world is getting more public.
  • Eventually gaming is going go go away from physical media, and have to really blaze new trails in pricing.  These trails will be weird enough that establishing norms will be hard, and will take time (I think Freemium and it’s ilk have about 3-5 more years to get culturally normal without becoming an Intermittent Story In Gaming).

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach for professional and potentially professional geeks, fans, and otaku. He can be reached at