Now that a modicum of stability has returned to Origin and SimCity’s servers, concerned citizens think ahead to that distant, yet pertinent question for any always-online game: what happens when SimCity’s half-life recedes? When its players are bussed to new games? How many lights will have to go out before its servers are deemed an untenable expenditure, and EA pull the plug? All of them, Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw suggests.
“SimCity is an important part of our company’s legacy and we want players to be able to continue their experiences well down the line from now,” Bradshaw told CVG in an interview. “As far as I am concerned, the servers will stay on as long as there are people playing.”
Recent history suggests that it’s perhaps not so simple as all that. In January, EA shut down servers for FIFA 11, a game in existence for scarcely two years. While the drop-off in player numbers for annualised sports games will inevitably be more dramatic than for something like SimCity, it’s clear that for a publisher like EA, “people playing” means a percentage threshold we’re not privy to.
I like our Steve’s idea: a long-term agreement between developer and customer; a doomsday plan that, in the event a game ceases to be profitable, sees all DRM stripped away and any always-online requirement eradicated in an update.
Even the best laid plans can be scuppered by premature company death, however, or a dev team scattered to the four winds by the AOE attack of Time.
So what’s the solution? I don’t suppose we could hash one out here in the comment section over lunch?