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.