Remember when you could buy a brand new game, go home, open it up, put it on and play it right away? Well that may soon become just a memory and I fear that the next generation of gamers won’t even know what that feeling is like. More often than not when you purchase a new game, it requires an immediate update. Ok, fine, whatever. Download my update. I’ll go grab a drink and take a leak while it loads. “Sorry, but the servers are currently down for maintenance.” That is the most infuriating message to receive after just purchasing a new game and it is inexcusable. There is no argument, no line of thinking, no rationale, no excuses, NOTHING that can justify why that happens.
Let’s say you just bought a new car and it’s sitting in your driveway and you’re about to take it out for the first time. As you turn the key, instead of the engine starting, you get a message stating, “Sorry you can’t use your car yet. We still haven’t finished working on it, but we sold it to you anyway.” You’d be pretty pissed. A TV, a fridge, a toaster, ANYTHING – when you purchase it, you expect it to be usable upon receiving it. “Hey, Jimmy, why aren’t you wearing those new shoes you bought?” “Because they’re having problems finishing attaching the leather.” You would call BS on that immediately, and you’d be in the right to do so. It’s not okay when any other retailer of goods does this, so why can video game publishers get away with it?
Players of MMOs are quite familiar with the situation, but that’s to be expected when a game is played entirely online. Even so, it should work at launch. I can accept server downtime for routine updates, large patches, bug fixes, add-ons, etc. but when a game is released for retail sale, as a finished product, it should work out of the box. Especially if I’m going to be playing a single player game. Why do I have to log into a server to play by myself? I’ve heard all the arguments for this, but as I stated earlier, it’s unjustifiable. Oh, okay, you’re making sure I have an authentic copy of your game. EA’s Origin and Ubisoft’s Uplay network require constant online access to play any of their newer games regardless if you’re playing multiplayer or not. Fuck you! I bought your damn game. Let me play it on my own terms. This also brings into question the concept of true ownership of the product. If I can’t use something that I purchased, then is it really mine? Generally, something that I own, I’m free to do with and use as I please and is mine forever until I so choose otherwise. Let’s say, 25 years from now, I have this game that requires their servers to play, but the servers have been permanently shut down. Then I can’t play this game. I can still play my old NES games that I bought years ago without any problem, so why shouldn’t I be able to play this one? What did I really buy? Did I really buy anything or did I just rent it? Granted a long, extended rental period, but it would be a rental nonetheless.
In case you weren’t already aware, Sim City, a game published by EA, and the impetus for writing this, had a disastrous release. For over a week, servers were unstable at best and many users had long wait times to log on and even then would get booted from the game due to server instability. For the first few days, the game was essentially unplayable, with an almost complete inability to log into the game. Similarly, but not nearly so awful, Diablo III and Starcraft II had a near inability to log on the first few days; both requiring constant online connections to play even a single player game. EA said that they had no idea so many people were going to be playing. The Sims is the best selling PC game of all time. Did they really think that they wouldn’t need more than a few servers to accommodate such a large fan base? At launch, wouldn’t it make sense to go a little overboard with servers because everyone is going to be logging in all at once. Blizzard is awful with this.
EA has as least admitted they screwed up. To anyone who purchases Sim City before March 25th, they will be entitled download one free game – Battlefield 3, Bejeweled 3, Dead Space 3, Mass Effect 3, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Plants vs Zombies, and Sim City 4 Deluxe. It’s nice that they’re giving out a free download. They didn’t have to. They could have just said, “We already have your money. Things will be fixed in time. Until then, deal with it.” It doesn’t make the situation right, or fix the increase in constant online games, but it’s nice to see a big publisher admit they were wrong.
The point of all this is, don’t release a game if it’s not finished. I wouldn’t have minded waiting another week, or month, or whatever for the game to release as long as I get a completed product. I paid for it, I want to be able to use it right away. If it’s not finished yet, don’t release it. And this mandatory online crap has got to go. Bottom line, if a game has a single player mode, then DO NOT require online server access.