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Maybe SimCity's Balance-Breaking Ad DLC Isn't All Bad

I did not, however, say it isn't mostly bad.

Good news! SimCity‘s gotten a potentially substantial piece of DLC, and it’s totally free. Bad news! It’s a gigantic ad for car company Nissan. Worse news! Its in-game functionality seems to make your city planning decisions even less consequential than before, which is quite a feat. Worst news! SimCity isn’t a very good game at all, even with its online issues mostly cleared up. Contrary opinion! This is one seemingly asinine move I think we should only partially leap down EA’s throat for. So maybe, like, just put in one leg. And do it kind of gently. Avoid the teeth, if you can.

First off, here’s how the Nissan Charge Station works:

“Plopping down the Nissan Leaf Charging Station will add happiness to nearby buildings. Adding the Charging Station will not take power, water or workers away from your city. Zoom in to the streets of cities and players will start seeing a percentage of their Sims from all wealth classes driving the electric vehicles. The Charging Station produces no garbage or sewage as well making it pollution free.”

That’s right: pure happiness with no consequences. Would that green living in the real world was so easy. Or living, for that matter. As is, the latest science calculates that ten puppies are required for every one unit of human happiness. And scientists can’t even study the phenomenon without breaching a certain puppy-induced happiness threshold. It’s a vicious cycle.

Anyway, this doesn’t exactly seem like the best bandaid for an already broken game, and honestly, it sounds like it could stomp the remaining pieces of Maxis’ once-fine series into a fine powder.

I do not, however, like the idea of damning this move completely. Because the fact is, ads (at least, where appropriate in the context of their respective games) could make heftier pieces of DLC completely free. We don’t see the idea in practice all that often these days, but it is worth considering – especially in light of the fact that DLC costs money to produce, and not everyone can afford to pull a Valve and drop it on our doorsteps without asking for even a dime. Admittedly, SimCity’s is pretty much a textbook example of how not to do this, but ads are not inherently bad.

Further, this type of practice could maybe extricate important chunks of content from the countless, Hydra-like jaws of pre-order schemes, which is something I think would be pretty wonderful. Then again: big, obvious ads or pre-orders. At that point, you’re kind of picking your poison.

But then, I suppose that’s triple-A gaming these days. Rarely (if ever) do we get to have our cake and eat it too, because the cake can’t make back its development costs even if it sells 3.4 million units – er, slices; whatever – in its first few weeks. In a ideal world, we’d get everything upfront with a nice bow and a cake and reassurance that, no, your childhood pet fish didn’t die; it really did just up and decide to move to Disneyland. But that’s not the world we live in, so concessions are a painful, oftentimes annoying necessity.

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Nathan Grayson

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