Just staying ”it isn’t” doesn’t help

Yesterday we had one director of a major game company make inflammatory replies to peoples concerns, mocking them. Today it seems that an executive of another major game company wants steal the limelight from them on the stage of questionable online behaviour.

If you are into gaming there should be no news to you that Electronic Arts latest version of SimCity didn’t get the warm welcome most would expect from such an old and loved franchise. Again it was the ”always on” part that riled users. If you had no interest in playing online, why the need to have your computer online to be able to even play? Later on the always-on requirement was shown to be not entirely true.

Most people consider this to be some kind of DRM since it forces you to authenticate against official servers to be able to play. Now Peter Moore, EA’s chief operating officer, speaks up and writes:

Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It’s not. People still want to argue about it. We can’t be any clearer—it’s not. Period.

Then tell us Mr Moore, what is it? We don’t want to know what it isn’t. I can tell you infinitely many things it isn’t. It isn’t a chicken sandwitch. It isn’t a stroll on a sunny beach. It isn’t helping legitimate users having unreliable internet connections. So what is it?

Just saying, ”it isn’t” doesn’t help. If you want to gain sympathy and recover lost fans, make sure your products and services are ideally better for those that pay for them than those that pirate them, but at least not worse! Otherwise you just stiff paying customers, that is not the way to maintain a faithful customer base.

If you have a part of the game that requires absolutely no interaction from another part, why should there be a requirement for internet connectivity? Tell us what the always-on function adds to the gaming experience. Then back your words with action. Show us that we want to be online, that this extra gaming experience is worth more than the offline experience. I assure you that gamers will then not mind the always-on requirement. I have played more than one game where online experience is much more fun than the same game with local bots. I don’t play these games in single player mode any more.

If it is a dedicated online game (MMO, a shooter like MAG, etc) we expect the online component and we buy the game for it. If SimCity had been marketed as SimCity Online – the new MMO version of the old franchise, we probably wouldn’t have seen half the uproar EA faces now. Perhaps people would even loved it and started praising it for using online to boost a already good experience. Who knows?

But coming out afterwards and lashing out at a internet poll this way? A great way to alienate your customers.

If you treat paying customers like little children who don’t know what is best for them, you will see the money trickle away slowly sooner or later. No one wants to be patted on the head.

Again, I am appalled by companies lack of media training within their management. Personally I don’t have any media training other than breezing through a little booklet (sorry, swedish only) I found in a recycling bin, and I seem to have grasped more from those few seconds than these guys have.

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