The Power Of Silence: Why The SimCity Story Went Away

By John Walker on April 22nd, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

Why has the SimCity story gone away? It’s a good question. And the answer for it reveals much about how both the games industry, and the games journalism industry, work.

In March, shortly after SimCity’s disastrous launch (servers couldn’t cope, the game barely ran, features had to be removed, and the always-on DRM was seriously crippling the game), EA and Maxis’ PR went into damage protection mode. And one refrain we saw over and over was a line from Maxis’ studio head, Lucy Bradshaw, that the ‘single-player’ game had to “offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers.”

On 12th March, RPS revealed that this statement simply wasn’t true. Via a source from inside Maxis, we learned that the server was doing no such thing, and that the calculations were running on the player’s PC. Two days later these claims were confirmed by a modder who had the game running indefinitely offline. It was clear that the message coming from Maxis simply wasn’t true. (There’s no better round-up of the events than the one put together by Kotaku.)

(One thing that’s important to note here: That the claims weren’t true does not provide room to conclude that Bradshaw was “lying”. Not knowing the circumstances within Maxis at all, there’s no way to know that Bradshaw did not believe what she was saying to be entirely accurate. Miscommunication, deliberate misinformation, we just don’t know, and as such accusations don’t help this discussion.)

So what to do next? Via RPS, and much of the gaming press, the reality that the servers were not running offline calculations became widely understood. So how did EA or Maxis handle this situation? With silence.

And if simply telling the truth isn’t considered an available option, silence is by far the most effective response in this industry.

When RPS first broke the story, only a few other gaming sites picked up on it. It was a big story, unquestionably, so why was it left alone by so many? That breaks down into two parts. Firstly, and most importantly, the story was based on an anonymous source. We of course know who the source is, and verified it until we were very comfortable running the story. But that wasn’t possible for other sites – they had the choice of running the story based on a “rumour” from RPS, or not at all. And that’s understandable – repeating rumours is often the gaming press at its worst, and with no means to verify our story, repeating it could have been risky. It could easily have led to legal threats being thrown all over. Which brings us to the second part – they needed some sort of confirmation, or at the very least a response, from EA to offer ‘balance’.

Not reporting the story couldn’t be immediately dismissed as capitulation, being in the pocket of EA, cowardliness, etc. (Not that it excludes it, of course.) What most sites would have done was immediately fire off an email to EA and Maxis asking for them to provide comment. We, of course, had done the same. And here’s where the power of silence played its first part.

EA and Maxis simply ignored all those emails. Sites may have received a, “We’re waiting for a response,” from their regional PRs, but that was it. And so if you’re running GamePow.com, and you’ve decided you can’t run RPS’s anonymously sourced story without giving EA a response, ta-da – no story on GamePow. And EA knows that.

Our efforts to get a response were equally futile. On the 12th March we were told by EA’s UK PR,

“I will have a response from Maxis for you shortly.”

On the 13th we were told,

“Unfortunately I am still waiting on a response, I will let you know as soon as I hear more.”

And from then on we heard nothing back, emails about it simply ignored.

Then on the 16th March, Maxis’ Senior Director of Worldwide Communications, Erik Reynolds, tweeted me out of the blue.

“No response was my fault not UK PR folks or Maxis. Not a PR tactic, just had to unwind the complex issues and gather right info”

An odd statement, certainly. Taken at face value, it would suggest they were preparing to response. They never have. So in hindsight, it’s only possible to interpret as his having instructed people not to give us (or anyone else) a response on this subject, and then left it at that. Which one might interpret as a PR tactic.

Reynolds (with the apposite handle “@buzzspinner”) has a disarming way on Twitter. After his tweet, a number of other people piled in with accusations, and his responses were pitched to imply that Maxis were victims in all this. They were trying their best, and it was all so heartbreaking for them. Many backed off in reaction. But within it, the same immediately obviously dubious lines were coming out, not least,

“This is a disappointing thing bc we dont want to but we also want to say the same thing we’ve been saying since GDC12″

Linking to an article I’d written, painstakingly pointing out how often their story had changed since GDC 2012, I suggested this is “not a thing you’ve been doing.” His responses had nothing to do with anything. After I pointed this out Erik replied suggesting he would try to sort out an interview, but, “yesterday I shut all of them down so the team can focus on the more important things”. I noted that it was sad that addressing these questions wasn’t considered important. He then added,

“We’ve said something officially every day since 3/5 to be transparent with our fans. Maybe not through your site, but no silence”

This was another clever statement. Maxis had done no such thing, but – so far as I have been able to tell – instead had sent out responses to questions asked long before the RPS story had broken. So it was that sites were running their interviews with Maxis that not only couldn’t have addressed the key issues, but only further repeated the statements that our coverage had revealed to not be the case. What they’d done is continued to wallpaper the internet with the debunked claims, after the fact. Not only were sites not reporting the reality of the situation, but they were in fact continuing to report the nonsense.

The conversation with Reynolds concluded with his apologising for not having sent RPS a statement in response, as I had repeatedly said was all we’d asked for.

No statement has been sent since.

And that’s the second stage of the silence tactic. RPS ran the story as far as we could without any response from EA. We’d revealed the issue, confirmed the issue, and discussed the issue. But without EA or Maxis giving us some sort of statement, other than to just repeat ourselves, there was nothing new we could say. And EA and Maxis knows this. So we, like most of the industry, haven’t written about the story since the middle of March.

Silence is a powerful weapon in the industry. The mad truth is, when it comes to gaming controversies, if you ignore it it will go away. This article is a fairly futile attempt to not let it, and to make sure our readers know that EA and Maxis never spoke to us, never responded to any of our questions, and never sent so much as a statement.

And they got away with it! SimCity sold over a million copies in its first couple of weeks, despite barely working. Many reviews ran before the game had been played properly, giving it huge initial scores, failing to recognise how disastrous its simulations were after the first 10 hours or so. The line about server-side calculations is still being stated as fact, with some major journalists losing their minds on Twitter with anyone who dared to question it. EA and Maxis are still sticking to their utterly ridiculous claims that the game was built as an “MMO”, despite that being patently untrue in every possible interpretation. And incredibly, at GDC last month, they were arguing that their game demonstrated how outdated “DRM” was – as if the always-on weren’t the most destructive form of DRM imaginable!

The principle is if you keep saying the same thing over and over, people will start to accept it. And heck, that couldn’t be more true. Sites reporting the nonsense from GDC showed it, reinforcing this latest angle that the game is an “MMO”, despite it featuring literally none of the identifying features of an MMO, from the “massively” part onward. The reason for this, of course, is because we all accept that an MMO has to be online – of course it does – so if they say “MMO” then they hope that association will be made to their game, despite how comprehensively it’s been shown to not need to be running online at all. Their response, perhaps even impressively, was to double-down on the online nonsense. It worked.

This tactic isn’t unusual. PRs very frequently will ignore emails they just don’t want to/have been told not to answer. Silence is by far the most effective means of spreading silence. With a press so frequently under the spell of the belief that one must offer ‘balance’ to report anything, stories will simply go unreported if one side refuses to comment. (Let alone the implicit idiocy of telling a massive corporation what news you are going to write about it before you write it, so they can shut it down before it ever sees daylight. It effectively boils down to asking for permission to run a negative story about a company. Journalists need to pull their heads out of their arses and start having the integrity to run stories they know to be valid, and then asking the corporation for comment.)

The credulous press (edit: please understand that here I’m referring to “the credulous portion of the press”, rather than being mad enough to suggest that the press as a whole is credulous!) is then flooded with “positive” stories, which they dutifully report, and the questions and controversy slide off the bottom of everyone’s news feeds.

And that, you see, is why the SimCity story went away.

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253 Comments »

  1. aeolist says:

    “some major journalists losing their minds on Twitter with anyone who dared to question it”

    lol @aegies

    • Treymoney says:

      Yeah, what was his deal? I’m never visiting Polygon again.

      • JarinArenos says:

        I browse plenty of gaming sites… but stories like this are why RPS is the only one that gets AdBlocker disabled.

        • JoeGuy says:

          I’d just feel bad using Adblock on RPS.

          • ShineyBlueShoes says:

            When most of their ads are for respectable things I’m actually interested in I just wish they would stop running ads for things like Grepolis. If it’s being advertised on crazy cable channels at 3AM I don’t want to see it here.

          • nitehawk says:

            “Grepolis” sounds like some sort of game made from the “grep” command.

          • MacTheGeek says:

            Using the new “CLI System”, you can grep any of the citizens in your Grepolis and learn exactly what their name is, where they live, and how many months they spent in a single-file traffic jam on their way to work this morning.

          • scatterbrainless says:

            I’m pretty sure the RPS boys have stated in the past that they outsource their advertising to Eurogamer because it’s not something that they want to deal with, and that way they can state their opinions of games without accusations of bias towards advertisers. I think they set format rules, such as no pop-ups or sound or anything that covers the screen, but the content is out of their hands.

        • nandastone says:

          +1!

      • Smoof says:

        Any links on this? I listen to his podcast, RebelFM and while he’s a pretty smart guy, he always seems apt to tow the line.

        • Jay says:

          There’s some coverage on it here, and most of it still seems to be on his twitter feed from the time.

          I can’t find the main topic on it, but there’s a lot more out there. I recall gems like insisting always online is fine by quoting sales numbers of games that have it, downplaying the chances of the servers being switched off down the line by pointing to WoW as an example of that not happening (despite the actual dozens of EA-produced examples of that very much happening), and resorting to “I’d like to see you do better” apparently without irony.

          I’ve rarely seen someone turn a site’s name to shit so comprehensively in such a short space of time. Crecente didn’t come out of it all that great either, but Gies went above and beyond.

          • Chippsetter says:

            I remember when EA bought the company that had the mmo called Earth and Beyond. Good game though it did have it’s bugs. They proceeded to shut it down even though the people were asking to keep it running and even though they were paying the monthly rates (no cheaper than anyone else). They even refuse to sell the game to someone else to set up servers and run it. They had purchased the company just to get the programmers.

    • Corb says:

      how can anyone defend this game after everything that has been brought to light? I mean…do they have the understanding of a 90 year old when it comes to technology and being a consumer?

      • solymer89 says:

        Hopefully this comment sticks towards the top and folks are still browsing them. There is a psychological term for this, it’s called Cognitive Dissonance.

        “The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements.[1] It is the distressing mental state that people feel when they “find themselves doing things that don’t fit with what they know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold.” [4] A key assumption is that people want their expectations to meet reality, creating a sense of equilibrium.[5] Likewise, another assumption is that a person will avoid situations or information sources that give rise to feelings of uneasiness, or dissonance.[1]” ~Wikipedia

        The MSM (main stream media) employ this on a daily basis in an effort to sway the masses opinions and beliefs on anything ranging from current events to keeping silent regarding issues that MUST be discussed in the light of day. Journalism is a dying art form as more and more “journalists” are reporting on conjecture and superficial elements of a story that doesn’t even matter, as opposed to doing real research and followup on a meaningful matter that the general populace should know about. On a geopolitical plane, the MSM is controlled by the powers that be. EA isn’t at that level but you’ve explained perfectly why other sources aren’t reporting on these issues more or at all. And now folks have been flooded with so much disinformation regarding the game that those in the know are ostracized by the mouth breathing masses.

        A lot of these elements can be seen with EA as a company, and this games release. This game is designed for control, but not by the end user, but by EA. These types of companies want a dumbed down populace because they are so good a lying through their teeth. It is possible to lie so much you believe yourself, but it is a disservice to yourself and most definitely others.

        • derbefrier says:

          well said man. Its funny even being aware of this its still all to easy to let yourself become a victim to it. Its a constant struggle to even attempt to maintain an open mind. It almost seems natural to ignore things you don’t wanna here maybe its ego or maybe its fear I don’t know but I do think if more people could recognize this in themselves it would be a good thing.(the dirty secret is even if you are aware of it, that doesn’t mean it still wont happen to you.)

    • Apocalypse says:

      “Silence is a powerful weapon in the industry. The mad truth is, when it comes to gaming controversies, if you ignore it it will go away. This article is a fairly futile attempt to not let it, and to make sure our readers know that EA and Maxis never spoke to us, never responded to any of our questions, and never sent so much as a statement.”

      The mad truth is that the press becomes irrelevant for the information spread at this point. You will notice that everyone interest in gaming news is aware of the fuck up of sim city, the fuck up of maxis, the fuck up of ea.

      EA will become Americas worse company again, people will have even more restrain to buy EA products, EA will keep getting flamed all over the internet for everything and anything, even when it is not their fault.

      Silence does not work, because Silence will not repair your image. The brand EA is worth a negative sum of dollars, and I would guess the sum is rather huge. The company itself may still have some very nice and valuable assets and ips, but EA as a brand is burned. And so is now Maxis.

      That mast have been surely worth a million copies sold at release? ;-)

      • daemonofdecay says:

        Yeah, just keep telling yourself that EA is going to crash and burn over this. People have been talking about how evil/greedy/poorly run that company is for a decade, and its still going strong.

        The public is ill informed and dumb. The mob is fickle and easily distracted. There were only two groups really: those that had already purchased the game and were SOL, and those that didn’t. Over time their silence will continue on their failings, while in the meantime EA will issue statements about patches and fixes and stability improvements. And thus those that did avoid buying it before or during the fiasco, having forgotten all the lies and exposed to only “positive” news regarding the game, may be convinced to purchase it later thinking “well, they probably fixed all those bugs by now – and its on sale!”

        EA’s silence can kill our righteous anger not just because it deliberately stifles reporting on the issue – it also counts on the fact that we have short memory spans and let things fade with time. Our anger at their lies and controls will diminish – and in the absence of responsible journalism, we will soon forget just why were supposed to not be giving them our money. Only when sites like RPS have the balls to report on these things can the outrage be sustained… Even if it is left to simmer on the back burner.

      • Mattressi says:

        Well, if it ends up affecting their bottom line over the next few years, they can always get free advertising by blaming piracy for their lack of sales.

  2. CitizenDickbag says:

    You brits and your Doctor Who.

    Either way thanks for being the only proper news outlet for PC games these days. Please continue and never start peppering your journalism with reports on the latest anime boob trends by Brian Ashcraft.

  3. Chalky says:

    I’m glad RPS is still keeping us up to date with this. Even if they’re trying to escape and manage the controversy, I’m hopeful that the magnitude of their fuck-up when it comes to this promising game hasn’t escaped them.

    Maybe they’re going to learn something from this? Is this too much to hope? I hope they recognise that their sales could have been so much better if the game hadn’t included so many horrible design decisions and blatant disrespect for the intelligence of their players.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Great piece, one I’m glad was written. But RPS’ words on this wont die in vain. It ensures a lot of us wont ever touch this game, or any pre-order for that matter. EA got a black eye,

      What is sad is the lack of resolution. By going silent, and without more concerted media pressure from all outlets, EA ensure the story dies with a whimper. All walks of jounalism are packed with people ignorant – sometimes willfully – to the workings of power though. Doritosgate was one reminder from games journalism, but you just have to look at the absurd discrepancy between news coverage of Anglo-American victims of terrorism on the one had and victims of Anglo-American terrorism on the other to see that news journalism is no different. The powerful set the agenda and the best we get in this current system is the pleasure of landing a punch occasionally.

      Thanks for the pugalism John.

      • Schaap says:

        How did EA get a black eye exactly? They sold millions!

      • spleendamage says:

        I pre-ordered it (on what i thought was a pretty sweet deal) from Amazon. I tried to log in for a couple days and managed to play once. In the meantime, I read all the negative press, logged my obligatory 1 star review on Amazon and have not logged in again. I didn’t claim my “free” game from EA. I want nothing more to do with this company.

        Maybe in the end, it doesn’t matter to them or anyone else if I don’t buy, or play any EA games from here out, but at this point there are so many amazing devs making awesome games… I feel pretty good about it.

    • Premium User Badge

      P7uen says:

      I didn’t do my homework and was one of those who bought this bloody game. Really appreciate RPS coverage, and they have made a difference with all the people I know who game. Keep it up!

      By the way, I read the patch notes today, if you want a good laugh read the “Residential” fixes.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      There is a downside to EA with them staying silent. No sites (aside from with Polygon who seem to have a review score metagame going on) are writing about SimCity any more. And probably none of them will do so unless this gets addressed, which means that the fanfare for each bit of DLC they’ve undoubtedly anticipated will be much quieter.

      Consider this, when the obligatory real-world city expansion packs become available, RPS is now in the position of refusing (or simply being apathetic about) coverage until they get their delayed responses.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lamb Chop says:

      Word about this definitely got out. I know many people who aren’t really gamers but own at least one version of simcity, and when it came up in conversation, they said, oh yeah, isn’t that supposed to be a disaster? People might not know the details or keep up with the coverage but the definite impression among the general audience is negative. And that’s really all that matters.

      Also, corporate PR is the worst.

    • greywolf00 says:

      Way too much to hope imo.

      “The problem with EA is that it’s an entertainment software company and the majority of the EA leadership doesn’t have a background in software or entertainment. They are ‘money men’ – people with a background in venture capital, management, and overseeing large established industries. Before EA, Riccitiello’s job was running the Bakery Division of the Sara Lee corporation. This sort of industrial and financial oversight work is radically different from producing software in this young and rapidly changing new media. Basically, these men are out of their depth and out of their area of expertise. These guys don’t work in software and don’t play games, yet they’re running a company that requires a keen understanding of both. They’re trying to reach consumers and shape public opinion, but they don’t have a firm grasp of gaming news or the culture that surrounds the hobby.”

      http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points/10252-How-to-Fix-Electronic-Arts

      • Punchbowled says:

        It’s the same in so many industries at present. It helps to think of them as the political officers of the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Actually it doesn’t help, but it’s basically true.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          I think of these people as basically present-day aristocracy. They earn ridiculous amounts of money they don’t really deserve but which they need to support the silly lifestyle that’s popular among their peers, they believe themselves to be in charge and technically are, even though they often know fuck all about what’s actually going on down below, and every now and then you’ll find someone among them who’s actually enlightened and makes good things happen. The rest are just clowns wearing ties.

  4. jha4ceb says:

    Great post. Hooray for RPS.

  5. Loque says:

    Then you see gamers like this one:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/SimCity/comments/1ct48t/worst_promotional_gimmick_ever_please_fire_your/

    and you suddenly understand why EA keeps making money and keeps ignoring its customers.

  6. LordMidas says:

    I preordered it. I played it. Had issues, for me they were mostly graphical, and thus very annoying. Slow, jerky, textures clipping onto other textures, having to reduce a load of setting just so tall buildings wouldn’t phase in and out of existence!!
    I no longer play it.
    I got Dead Space 3 for free which is MILES better than SimCity.
    Nice article John

  7. SkittleDiddler says:

    RPS, I would hardly say your attempts at uncovering this debacle have been futile. Keep up the good work.

  8. Premium User Badge

    jackthename says:

    Oh, RPS, I wish your words created videogames. They would be the best ones…

    • Sakkura says:

      Their words do create videogames. At least as long as those words are something like… hunted, are, sir, being, you.

      • Baines says:

        Nothing but vaporware, I say. They haven’t even announced the Season Pass DLC yet.

  9. Shazbut says:

    Great article

  10. Lyton Darque says:

    The truth and emotion in this post almost brings a tear to my eye. This is the state of PC gaming in big publishers’ hands. Woe.

    • Premium User Badge

      Stellar Duck says:

      Not just PC gaming. Gaming.

      And I actually think this one lands, as pointed out, at the feet of the so called press. They seem deathly afraid of offending the publishers. Which is nonsense.

      • CitizenDickbag says:

        If they offend the publishers they might not get free review copies to then write dishonestly about for fear of offending the publishers!! It’s a recursive loop of terrible journalism.

        • Premium User Badge

          Stellar Duck says:

          Which would be solved by them buying their own damn games. Would also solve the issue with pre release reviews, embargos, closed environment reviews and all that nonsense.

          And it may make them more perceptive to the fact that paying 60€ for SimCity and it not working is not fucking okay.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    “Silence is by far the most effective means of spreading silence. With a press utterly under the spell of the belief that one must offer ‘balance’ to report anything, stories will simply go unreported if one side refuses to comment.”

    Seems a bit spineless really. I can’t say (beyond Sunday Papers links) that I go any further than RPS/Eurogamer for gaming news and Eurogamer seem to run a policy of asking for comment and if none is forthcoming tacking a “[company X] has refused to comment/not replied to our requests for comments” which seems eminently reasonable and I’d assumed this was the norm elsewhere. This practice also seems to be pretty good for getting a response, judging by the number of EG news articles which are updated with comments after publication.

    • ix says:

      This. Seems to be standard in respectable (i.e. not gaming) journalism to wait till right before publication. No comment? Run the story with some neutral placeholders, i.e. “we didn’t receive response to calls in time for publication…”. I think that’s preferable to running the story without asking for comments, since right to reply is something I feel pretty strongly is a good thing. There’s no rule that says articles should then be structured as a he said/she said story, that’s a form of “balance” that actually unfairly assigns more merit to a side’s opinion than it’s worth, i.e. not balanced or neutral at all.

    • Misnomer says:

      My problem with this approach is that we are making assumptions about the reason all the other outlets didn’t run the story. Why are we making assumptions?

      Did John contact the other outlets and ask why they abandoned the story? If not, why not? Seems unlikely that they have the same attitude as EA does.

      It is hard for me to look at this and think it is brilliant journalism. It is just editorializing what amounts to a conspiracy theory without evidence that this is the reason the other sites ran nothing. It may be a logical and possibly true conspiracy, but without reaching out to the other publications…all we know is that RPS ran the story and other websites dropped it.

      Now we have to take RPS and their anonymous source’s word that they were the only ones on the story because they were the only ones that knew the truth. That doesn’t sit well with me.

      • CitizenDickbag says:

        This article isn’t a conspiracy theory, this is a conspiracy theory: How much does EA pay you per word?

  12. Cytrom says:

    I don’t get the fuss about simcity… pretty much every major EA game released in the past 5 years was crippled near their release, for once by trivial bugs that could have been easily spotted if their QA team would have had adequate time to test.. or if their QA existed in the first place, and secondly by some bullshit drm that limits you in every way especially playing the game you paid for, thirdly by ridiculously inadequate server capacity preparation, that they never fix afterward, just wait for people to give up and walk away, in which case the problem just solves itself, because the game will work for the remaining few people and EA can tweet proudly that “we solved the issue, and our customer service is amazing”, even though they did absolutely nothing.

    This is what EA does, besides buying and then systematically destroying once respected developers and ips like clockwork. (plus false advertising, cut content dlc scam, microtransactions and.. pretty much everything that is bad about modern gaming) And poeple still buy their shit, and complain, and are surprized. Its like putting your hand in a bee nest every week and expecting something nice to happen this time, even though something not so nice happened in the last 10 tries, but you are completely oblivious to that. Except you pay for it.

    EA’s success is just a solid confirmation that gamers are just retarded… the overwhelmingly vast majority anyways.

    • RobinOttens says:

      The fuss with Sim City isn’t that the game is some sort of horrible exception. The fuss is that Sim City is broken and their PR department have been lying/spinning truths and silencing the story. Regardless of whether this is standard practice at EA/Maxis or not. It’s still something worth pointing out and getting angry over.

      If you just say “eh, this happens every time, why bother fussing”, things will only get worse. But with the amount of negative press Sim City has gotten, one could at least hope it’s enough to make EA or their customers think twice the next time around.

      Just keep fighting the good fight/doing your job John Walker!

      • Cytrom says:

        I’m all for campaigning against theese corporate game factories ruining our hobby, although I’m not sure it can work when the bulk of the target audience just never learns…

        I just find it a bit odd that simcity has been getting a relatively loud publicity despite that its a rather small sin compared to what has EA and their pals has comitted to consumer / gamer rights in the past few years, that was mostly swallowed with little resistance by comparison. Wasn’t even a step forward for them, just business as usual.

    • Snakejuice says:

      Yes this is what EA does and yes it’s like this every time and it’s for that simple reason that we create a fuss every time, see? When they stop being crappy the fuss will go away (never).

  13. MrPo0py says:

    Excellent writeup. This issue is not just exclusive to the games industry. Polititions are at it all the time. When is that last time you heard President Obama talk about Guantanamo or those drone strikes that always seem to end up killing innocent children? In fact, the last time I heard Obama talking about Guantanamo Bay prison was when he was campaigning for votes and promising to close the place. Nevermind that it is still open and that there are prisoners there who are starving to death due to hunger strike. Nor does it help that the media seem to play along and not bother him with intrusive questioning.

    • Arglebargle says:

      While the drones thing is definitely an issue, Obama tried to close Guantanamo early on. Couldn’t even get his own party to sign on to the deal. Too many legislators wanting to look badass. Congress not only refused to fund the decomission, they floated bills to make sure it wasn’t possible. It would have been futile to fight it, and expend political capital for no gain. Realpolitik is sometimes nasty indeed.

  14. deke913 says:

    Straight shooting, John. Keep raking the coals and maybe a spark of intelligence will fly up and stick to the people can’t be bothered to be properly informed. I salute you sir.

  15. captainkibble says:

    Articles like this illustrate perfectly why RPS is by far the best gaming based site there is. I registered just to say so.

  16. SCdF says:

    I think companies are realising that public opinion is not that worthwhile. As games are becoming mainstream the opinion of technically minded people don’t matter as much. If you only expect 100,000 people to be interested in your game and they’re all technically minded, you might want to not piss them off. If you expect to sell millions of copies to Joe Public, 95% of which won’t even *notice* that they have to always be on the Internet, then you care less. So the game has lots of issues running, EA already has your money. And you’ll buy the next thing they make, because by the time that rolls around you’ll forget, and hey your friends are buying it anyway.

    • Premium User Badge

      GiantPotato says:

      Call me a horrible person, but somehow I can’t shed any tears for either side in that scenario. I actually kind of like the idea of EA and mainstream gamers locked in some kind of horrible, unholy embrace from which neither one can escape. I believe it would be referred to as a “closed loop” in engineering terms.

      • Premium User Badge

        jezcentral says:

        Our you could spare a thought for the non-hardcore gamers who bought this, and got put off PC gaming as a result.

      • zeph says:

        I too think this is fair. If people are willing to buy EA, they deserve what they get.

        The problem is, EA hold many games that we hold dear, and is destroying them one by one. So not only are they being fuelled by this mass-market of self-destroying gamers, but they are killing the games we all used to love and play in the process.

        • chuckles73 says:

          The great thing is, since we know they’re destroying our beloved IPs, we can safely not buy their games. If you love a property that they bought up, you don’t need to buy the next release because you already know it’s going to be terrible! This is part of the reason I have not played Mass Effect 3 yet. The other part is that I’ll pick it up once it’s on steam.

      • theoriginaled says:

        But its not a closed loop. So long as EA is making money off of their rubes and other companies can see how much they are making the niche gamer is still in danger of the games they love being perverted by the EA-rube interplay. Like it or not, if you love games you HAVE to care about what idiots think about games and what companies are making off of them because it wil dictate the direction of the industry. Business goes where the money is.

        • Premium User Badge

          GiantPotato says:

          I guess the difference for me is that I don’t think of any of these EA offerings as being the games I love. The only thread connecting the original SimCity with the latest piece of garbage foisted on the population is the name, which by itself is almost a technicality. As far as I’m concerned the latest SimCity is actually named Tropico 4, and I’m enjoying it just fine. So yes, the big-budget publishers and the public at large are proving that they can throw massive amounts of money at each other and trash franchises. I don’t know how much they ever had to do with PC gaming in the first place, though.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Yeah, but SimCity? A niche franchise for a single platform that has the most technically minded audience able to call bullshit – PC users. Do FarmVille fans outnumber them that badly?

  17. The Elocutioner says:

    Great article! This sort of thoughtful journalism is what makes RPS stand out from other gaming sites.

    We need to move away from the marketing-created ‘need’ to be reviewing these games before release and playing them on day one. It just enables these developers and publishers to release unfinished products time and time again.

  18. Premium User Badge

    squirrelrampage says:

    EA & Co. learned well from politicians: Even in the face of facts, keep lying. It works well for them, why not for a gaming company?

  19. RutigerP says:

    Thanks for this little peek into the power of the silent spin. One of the big problems with games journalism is trading access for investigative reporting. The obsession with “balance” is often less about objectivity than it is about maintaining good relations with publishers, to ensure that you are on the invite list to get a sneak peak of their next big release. When covering an industry driven by tightly guarded secrets (and rumours) about features, storylines, and release dates, the last thing any gaming media outfit can afford is being shut out by the few people who actually control all of these. Silence is the bane of the average journalist; exceptional journalists find other voices to fill the void. Thanks for staying with this and other quiet outrages RPS.

  20. aliksy says:

    I’ve stopped buying EA games. What more can I do?

    • BTAxis says:

      Convince others to follow your example.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          Failing that, punish those who buy them.

          I, for one, have taken to checking peoples’ games libraries in the dead of night and, if they have an EA game, I shoot their dog.

          If they don’t have a dog, I buy them a cute rescue dog and leave it on their porch in an adorable little basket with a note saying “please look after this dog”. Then wait for them to get attached. They’ll buy dog toys, and a dog blanket. They’ll work the dog into their daily routine with walks that benefit human and dog alike with the health advantages the exercise brings. Their kids will bond with the dog, they’ll go on holiday with the dog a few times, and then, when they’ve welcomed the dog into their family and really opened their hearts and really internalised the reality of “we have a dog”, then, and only then, do I shoot the dog.

    • Spoon Of Doom says:

      Once a week, mail them a big old turd, accompanied by a sternly worded letter, until they stop being shit.

      • Campbell50 says:

        Mailing turds through mail = big stinky mess. Mail them a picture of a turd(as many species as possible) and label it “Simcity” or “Medal of Honor” or whatever.

    • Squirly says:

      I’m with you buddy. The problem is our peers who keep ruining things and buying stuff anyway. YOU PEOPLE!

  21. Premium User Badge

    GiantPotato says:

    Well, the good news is that even if EA controls the message on this issue completely it won’t fix the problems in the game. SimCity is an MMO with none of the features of an MMO and a DRM-free experience that refuses to run unless it’s connected to the internet. So even if EA has the best PR team in the business they’re still in trouble.

  22. Beernut says:

    This article focuses quite a bit on the journalists who didn’t follow up enough and let EA/Maxis of the hook too early. But let’s not forget the consumer-side of things. If customers were more conscious about the industry they buy their products from, they could make a significant impact and “force” companies to deal with uncomfortable topics because they wouldn’t go away that easily. On top of that, there’s a big deal of fanboyism, white-knighting and buyer’s remorse going on when it comes to video games, which further complicates reasonable discussions about more serious allegations towards a publisher/developer.

    • theleif says:

      Problem is, most people doesn’t have the hours to spend on searching for and evaluating the information, that’s why it’s so important to have good journalists like the good chumps at RPS.
      I’d like to add that white-knighting has swiftly soared to the number one spot on my most despised words on the internet.

  23. Namey says:

    I wish more gaming sites would do actual journalism like this, rather than being just glorified advertising avenues.

  24. denthor says:

    Actual journalism in gaming ………. What is this I don’t even.

    Keep it up!!

  25. FriendlyNeighbourhoodMurderer says:

    Great work RPS and Walker. This is just one of the reasons you’re the best PC Game site in existance.

  26. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Why is the first… Oh, a blank picture to symbolise the silence. Got it. Clever. Not getting the lightning bit though.

    So the game will be released today, going out of beta? Because really I had a few patches in the weeks since “release” that I did want to check the details of, but there was NOTHING posted anywhere on what they contained.

    • fylth says:

      I think I might just love you good sir

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      Well, the (now not-blank) first pic and the lightning pic both contain a Doctor Who alien from the race/species/collective known as The Silence. Which sort of ties in with this piece.

  27. TillEulenspiegel says:

    That the claims weren’t true does not provide room to conclude that Bradshaw was “lying”.

    That’s crap, because after the truth was made public, she never retracted those statements – which is functionally and ethically equivalent to lying.

    The same thing would apply if a newspaper refused to issue a retraction of some important misstatement, for example.

    • Premium User Badge

      lowprices says:

      I think that statement is in partly because RPS can’t claim to know what goes on at Maxis, and would like to think the best of people, and partly because out and out claiming Bradshaw is a liar potentially opens the door to legal repercussion, and EAs lawyers are probably at a loose end, post-Langdell.

    • Grygus says:

      Maybe. I would say that there is a difference between Bradshaw lying and EA and/or Maxis lying. EA and/or Maxis definitely lied to us and has been consistently dishonest ever since. You can’t prove that Bradshaw was in on the lie, though. Given that she hasn’t been fired and that a press blackout on the subject has ensued, it seems likely to me that someone above her was pulling the strings all along. Just because they give us a public face to associate with something doesn’t mean that person has any actual control over that thing.

  28. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    I agree that your work hasn’t been futile either John, RPS was there at the forefront of the launch implosion, and I highly doubt that the game’s adoption has suddenly bounced back remarkably.

    Either way I’m glad RPS is still at it. I haven’t forgotten about Sim City and the nonsense surrounding it, I imagine a whole bunch of other people who give a damn haven’t forgotten either.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Surlywombat says:

    I think its pretty safe to say it damaged the sales. Yes there is an argument that only a minority read gaming websites, but this screw up made the mainstream press. This game could have been the a massive hit, as it is, I know no one who brought it and it did terrible damage to the brand.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      Exactly this. If nothing else, the anticipation for the as-yet-unreleased Mac version has completely evaporated at this point.

      One of the rare benefits of a delayed release.

    • Bhazor says:

      Compared to the sales of The SIms series it was a disaster.
      A million copies is nothing in EA’s world, remember when they said they needed 5,000,000 copies just to justify Dead Space 3?

  30. Guvornator says:

    Speaking of which, it seems said game is going offline for 2 hrs tonight while they patch/finish it http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-04-22-simcity-goes-offline-tonight-ahead-of-hotly-anticipated-update-2-0-patch . Doesn’t seem to be any mention of fixing the inflated resident numbers and then there’s this gem under “Fixes and updates”:

    “Cities not Processing: Mitigates some of the issues that were causing cities not to process. We are continuing to work on and improve this issue.”

    EDIT: see also this comment from Mr Flump:

    “Apparently support now aren’t giving help out if you’re running windows 8 as it isn’t on their supported OS list despite their community manager stating it was compatible on the forums (as I learned last night to support after 2 weeks of being unable to connect to any cities). Despite acknowledging it was likely a save issue, they wouldn’t assist me.

    EA will never be getting another sale from me! “

    • zeph says:

      “Choosing a time to issue a major Update is never easy, but after looking our peak player time, we’ve concluded 9pm GMT is the best window for us to make these improvements”

      PEAK UK time! GG EA. Laughable.

      • mondomau says:

        In no way defending EA or such idiotic decisions, but it’s pretty much par for the course with online games to take them down at times that massively inconvenience EU players with apparently very little thought on the matter. See: SOE & Planetside 2

      • Premium User Badge

        FriendlyFire says:

        I think their analysis went… “Okay, what time do we make it so we don’t have to work overtime?”

        Middle of the day for America, evening for Europe. Not the best time to take down your entire servers…

    • Vorphalack says:

      SimCity 2.0?

      As if the botched launch, ineffective simulation engine, lying to the player base, in game advertising and press silence weren’t bad enough, they compound their shame by flagrantly disregarding the logic behind patch integers! The only remaining question is how they can possibly sink lower than this.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      “hotly anticipated”

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      Oh, wait, they were serious.

      AAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      Yes, I’m sure the patch that makes the game work the way it should have out of the gate is hotly anticipated by the people who bought it for sixty dollars. I like it when things I’ve purchased at a premium work, too.

      Wait, I’m sorry, I mean the patch that adds many of the necessary features that weren’t in the game upon release (for example, a simulation that keeps working after a few hours). It would only “work the way it should have out of the gate” if they removed the ridiculous fucking DRM that only punishes paying customers and let people play SimCity offline.

  31. bwion says:

    “And incredibly, at GDC last month, they were arguing that their game demonstrated how outdated “DRM” was”

    It arguably has accomplished this, though I have a feeling that “by serving as a cautionary example” is not what they had in mind.

    • RobinOttens says:

      I’m really curious what the response from people in the audience was. I would think game developers attending GDC are among the informed who can tell bullshit when they see it. What arguments did Maxis have exactly?

      • Premium User Badge

        GiantPotato says:

        EA was saying the term was outdated, not the mechanism. I think this was understood by most of the GDC attendees.

  32. lordcooper says:

    I keep forgetting this article exists whenever I look away.

  33. mrmalodor says:

    Wait…people still play Sim City???

  34. SuicideKing says:

    Nice one John. Never played the game, but i have a policy of waiting for reviews, which saved me :)

    P.S. Are any of you at RPS following the Age Of Empires II HD launch? It was really, really, bad…basically launched a beta version of a 13 year old game with a tweaked terrain engine and netcode, and without LAN support. Oh, yeah, Windows XP players couldn’t even run the game, despite being officially supported.

    Would be nice if you could have a look, they’ve pretty much got away with it.

  35. Premium User Badge

    JB says:

    Great article RPS. When the hype first started for Sim City, I had planned to pick it up as Mrs B and myself both quite like some citybuilding action.

    Thanks to all the coverage of its horrible flaws, I’d now not touch the game with a 10-foot reticulated spline. I’m sure I’m not the only one, so RPS’ coverage is hardly futile. Keep fighting the good fight.

  36. Premium User Badge

    G-Lord says:

    Thanks for the article. I still hope that the silence tactic backfires when they announce the next project and people remember SimCity.

  37. Spoon Of Doom says:

    Sad thing is, I’m afraid there are enough people defending the bullshit claim that this isn’t DRM, that it catches on at least enough so that they can use the same DRM MMO features in their next game.

    I’m still baffled by the audacity of all their lies. I hope this will make it into history as a verb, as in

    “The sky is red.”, Mister PR said.
    “Yeah, you told us that, but we actually looked outside and came to the unanimous conclusion that the sky is actually blue. Care to comment on that?”
    “Comment on what? There are dashes of violet here and there, which might be mistaken for blue by some, which is really their own fault, but apart from that, the sky is a deep, wonderful red.”, he EA’d them right in the face.

    or

    “You are under arrest for robbing this bank!”
    But instead of admitting to it, the robber EA’d “I was not robbing them. I just showed them my new gun and asked to be compensated for that with the entire contents of their safe. Sure, I said I’d shoot them if they didn’t, but that was clearly printed in the terms & conditions they agreed to by looking at me and the gun.”

  38. Premium User Badge

    AlwaysRight says:

    I imagine there is a Malcolm Tucker type character running around EA shouting at people
    “If you email back that John Walker *expletive* I’ll chop off your *humorous body part* and use it as a *type of hat/footwear*”

  39. Premium User Badge

    golem09 says:

    Oh, another one of those articles. Need to balance out some trailer posts with actual journalism for more hits? ;)

    Keep up the good work.

  40. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    I’m not sure if this particular article is aimed at other games journalists or Maxis/EA, but I think the coverage in general has had an effect on the perception towards SimCity by gamers. The problem is that the gamers that are well-informed are probably a small percentage of the intended audience for the game, the rest of whom care as much about these issues as they do the impact of fairtrade foodstuffs.

  41. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    This is a really good article, John.

  42. Danda says:

    RPS should stop covering EA’s games. So they want silence? Give them silence.

    Nah, I’m kidding… We need someone to tell the truth about EA’s bullshit!

  43. Rinu says:

    Thank you for writing about this.

  44. no3y3h4nd says:

    the saddest part of this whole thing is that this article needs to be written at all. It depresses the hell out of me sometimes just how easily people are deceived.

    it’s as plain as the end of everyone’s nose that EA / Maxis are lying and trying to control the agenda.

    it’s no different to government basically just repeating themselves until everybody believes (“it’s all the poors fault that their are no schools, fireservice, shops, roads etc..”)

    the sad state of affairs is that if John weren’t like a dog with a rag about this it would have just gone away.

  45. Frosty840 says:

    Thought I saw screenshots, there, of Peter Jackson’s glorious http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_Taste. Sadly mistaken. :(

  46. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    EA will be relying on PC Gamers in the lean console years ahead, I’m sure they’ll turn round and apologise and act like they’ve changed, this time though we wont act like the beaten wife and take them back without another thought, this time we’ve moved on, we don’t need them anymore.

    • captain nemo says:

      jeez – i cannot take another ‘that was unfortunate’ barrage from Ubisoft. Enough already. I’m not interested in buying games from these companies anymore

  47. Cinnamon says:

    I have a similar unfair silence tactic to EA games. I don’t play them and am therefore fairly silent when it comes to my experiences of them.

  48. Mbaya says:

    Thanks for the update John, another good insight into the world of games and games journalism.

    One can only hope things begin to change (and in some places, I believe things are getting better), but RPS certainly leads the way with articles such as this.

  49. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    I think the appetite to run with this story just didn’t exist. Well it did exist but when a large part of your revenue stream is courtesy of EA it’s hard to run a negative piece when the banner add at the top of the page is advertising an EA product!

    You don’t bite the hand that feeds you!

    On the flip side your advertising revenue is page impression dependant so you don’t want to piss of your readership by peddling corporate lies on behalf of your customers(EA). So it suits all BUSINESS parties concerned for the matter to simply disappear. Not so good for us as consumers but luckily we have RPS (I hope ;-) )

    • denthor says:

      That is a very good point. I wonder how much validity there is to it.

  50. Tei says:

    Other angle:

    The CISPA has passed USA law. Other similar laws where stopped by the coordinated grief of multiple websites like Wikipedia. But these websites are not political, can’t stay in a permanent state of “political war”. So the proposers of things like CISPA only have to bribe politicians again and again, until the law that want pass. It may be stopped once, maybe 3 times, but will finally pass.

    People just want to have a good time and live. Can’t focus his entire life on politics. So evil people use this to push his goals. In the gaming world we have see the DLC’s replacing the modding scenes, and we have seen the rise of horrible DRM features. And we have fight that, but we have other things to do, like play games. It seems the only way to stop stuff like DLC’s or DRM’s, is to dedicate our entire hobby to political fighting, and that not why we are here, in gaming. Bad, Evil people, will win, because can dedicate more time to win that us.

    • thegooseking says:

      In the gaming world we have see the DLC’s replacing the modding scenes

      That’s not really true. Mod support has tailed off, but so has demand for it, because people have gravitated away from making mods towards making full games as that’s become more accessible. So really it’s more true to say that indie games have replaced mods.

      Everything else you said is true, though.