March 2013's release of "SimCity" was a series first, introducing both real-time multiplayer and a mandatory online connection for even single-player modes. But a faulty start has left many gamers unable to play as online servers are overwhelmed.
After the game launched in North
America on March 5, with European regions joining from March 7, performance was at one point so bad that Amazon temporarily suspended sales of "SimCity" downloads, with the game sitting on a wrathful one-star customer rating.
Video game site Polygon revised its score from a 9.5/10 to a 4.0, while film and game critic Tom Chick declined to review "a shamefully broken game," reserving final judgement until launch issues were resolved.
So why does "SimCity" present an always-online requirement? There are two potential advantages.
Firstly, it complicates software piracy, ensuring that Electronic Arts and developer Maxis are rewarded for their efforts.
The same approach was shared by Blizzard Interactive's "Diablo III"; by contrast Ubisoft, once a staunch advocate of "always-on," has been removing the requirement from its catalog over the last year or so.
Secondly, and somewhat uniquely in the case of "SimCity," it helps keep system requirements low for players. The game "works by attributing portions of the computing to EA servers (the cloud) and some on the player's local computer," as its official blog explained in December 2012.
But with each "SimCity" conurbation requiring an update every three minutes, and heavy launch-period demand knocking out those servers, EA has moved to assure fans that more robust performance is to follow.
"We are working on the servers 24/7 -- expect performance fluctuations," read the SimCity Twitter feed on March 7, advising players to pick less populated servers in
the meantime, with an enterprising computing undergraduate offering server status updates at harding.ae/simstat.