EA Labels President: DRM ‘Failed, Dead-End Strategy’, SimCity ‘Plays Like MMO’

EA Labels President: DRM ‘Failed, Dead-End Strategy’, SimCity ‘Plays Like MMO’

At GDC, GamesIndustry.biz had the opportunity to talk to EA Labels president Frank Gibeau about SimCity and its always-online requirement, which caused a considerable amount of grief to many players at the game’s launch. Gibeau acknowledged this but insisted that what SimCity had wasn’t DRM.

“I was involved in all the meetings. DRM was never even brought up once,” Gibeau told GI.biz. “You don’t build an MMO because you’re thinking of DRMyou’re building a massively multiplayer experience, that’s what you’re building.”

He went on to describe what they had in mind when designing SimCity. “DRM is a failed dead-end strategy; it’s not a viable strategy for the gaming business. So what we tried to do creatively is build an online service in the SimCity universe and that’s what we sought to achieve.”

What they wanted to achieve with SimCity, according to Gibeau, is a connected and collaborative city-building experience. “At no point in time did anybody say ‘you must make this online’,” he added. “You have to innovate and try new things and surprise people and in this particular case that’s what we sought to achieve. If you play an MMO, you don’t demand an offline mode, you just don’t. And in fact, SimCity started out and felt like an MMO more than anything else and it plays like an MMO.”

This fits with Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw’s earlier statement that an offline mode was never part of Maxis’ vision in the first place. Still, it makes you wonder how much more smooth SimCity’s launch might have been, had the team decided to take a more offline-oriented route.

EA: “DRM is a failed dead-end strategy” [GamesIndustry.biz]


  • The issue is, the core of the game is perfectly fine – building a city – but the ‘multiplayer’ sharing bits are gimmicky. It’s not fun to reduce the size of your city and force you to have other cities which trade resources together to survive. Why not give people the option to play the way they want to play.

    • +1

      And honestly all the backtracking and “design” talk is pretty much just damage control and excuses at this point now. When you create a partially false premise for design decisions they *will* come up to bite you in the behind…

      The “MMO like” design is a very long stretch to make. SImcity has always been a single player game the concept of adding multiplayer elements is interesting but at the end of the day its all about the player making his own “sand castle”. It’s great when people come to help but the core fun is in “watching something you made take shape” when you start to artificially limit the building possibilities just to “invite other people” in your design you have basically lost a HUGE chunk of what the game was meant to be. At the moment instead of enhancing the experience the forced multiplayer is merely adding an artificial barrier to the “self building”. You gain nothing by imposing such barriers.

      An MMO/Multiplayer game is a game that comes from the complete opposite side of that spectrum. It’s a game that while fun though limited when played alone but becomes a richer experience the more people there are involved.

    • The core of this game is crap. The systems going on underneath the hood are more simple and rudimentary than any other SimCity.

  • I clicked on the small hope this article would be about the President breaking ranks with official policy and admitting EA made a blunder. Instead it was just the usual fluff.
    Not the authors fault, gotta right about something i guess. But EA big wigs maintining the company line isnt really news worthy anymore.

  • They’re kinda telling the truth when saying the always online isn’t about DRM. DRM was never really about DRM either. I doubt there are may CEOs out there dumb enough to think DRM was ever going to stop or even dent piracy. It’s all about controlling how you can use the product and measuring everything you do with what they allow you so they can work out optimum settings for minimum effort and risk to maximum profit

    When a company reaches sufficient size they tend to stop having customers and start having statistics.

  • Ye p. “Don’t piss on my shoes and tell me it’s raining”. If nobody ever said DRM in your meetings, then you either have a hugely dishonest culture that punishes recognising the elephant in the room or really naive staff. I’ll take the former as being more likely.

  • Tomayto, tomahto. Even if this guy wasn’t lying out of his arse, not calling it DRM doesn’t mean it still isn’t DRM.

  • Gah, MMO! fools, if the multiplayer aspects of the new simcity were even remotely good your always online requirement would be possibly acceptable, but the online interactions are so minimal, and you even dare call it an MMO. Theres’s nothing massively about having upto 16 players building little cities in the same region, with no interaction apart from basic trading. Heck you might as well just start calling COD an MMO now.

  • “DRM is a failed dead-end strategy; it’s not a viable strategy for the gaming business. So what we tried to do creatively is build an online service in the SimCity universe and that’s what we sought to achieve.”

    I love this sentence. DRM failed and isn’t good, we know that’s what you want to hear so we said it like we came to that conclusion on our own, that’s why we scribbled out the bad words like DRM and replaced them with good words that aren’t correct but almost fit anyway like MMO. Also we’re just peppering in words like creatively at random because it makes a statement about design sound like it has more artistic integrity.

    If you play an MMO, you don’t demand an offline mode, you just don’t.

    Just for the record I’ve been demanding offline MMO modes for decades. I understand how impractical it is from an engineering perspective but I’ve always thought they needed to come with some sort of single player offline content. It doesn’t have to be a 16 hour campaign, but I’ve always felt when the servers are down I should still be able to get into something (even just a limbo zone) with the cached versions of my characters.

  • Well atleast in an MMO, you log in and you are with other players.

    With Simcity, I go to find games and the results are games created days ago that are completely full. I cannot find a game that I can join that isn’t full already. Plus there are no filter options.
    I ended up having to play the game by myself anyway, my map is set to public and its been days and no one has joined it 🙁
    I have no idea how you are actually suppose to play with other people.

  • It’s ridiculous, to play with other people you have to trial and error join about a hundred full servers down the massive list until you find one with a free slot and if you are lucky they might even be active in it. This game would barely be classed as coop – definitely not mmo, you can only play with the other 3 people in your zone and as people have said its just minimal trading and services. Also there are plenty of problems with the game still so these articles saying it was just the launch week having problems is incorrect. My current city “fails to process” anymore, every time i try to play it and it just rolls back whatever i’ve done. /rage

  • One I see Massive as about a hundred people. Most MMO’s support thousands (per Server). Now SimCity has super super limited Multiplayer interactions. And that’s supposed to be Massive? I think it’s a OOM: Only Online Multiplayer.

    But what really really annoys me about the whole thing is quite simply the game never got finished. The broken AI, surely that was not final build whoo we’ve done it time. The server issue where your city can collapse and take the whole region with it. It sounds like the game was not done yet but sent out to make some damn money.

    I’m not against people making money or selling me a product, but I expect a finished product. If I buy a new car I don’t expect it to be delivered missing seats and doors and have them tell me next month.

  • Jesus … stop trying to convince people that poor old little innocent EA never ever once talked about implementing a DRM strategy. People weren’t born yesterday, so stop treating your customers like they are brain dead morons that don’t know any different. You can’t just throw a bunch of PR glitter up in the air, wave your arms around, say ‘abracadabra’ really loudly, and then hope nobody noticed that you tried to make an ugly situation disappear. Keep hitting your head against a brick wall, EA, and see how far that gets you. No one wants ‘always online’ DRM, so get it through your thick skulls already.

  • MMO? Give me a break, if they truly consider SimCity an MMO then EA need to go back to abbreviation school. Play Guild Wars 2, EA. Then try to tell us how Sim City shares a genre with it..

  • Blizzard admitted the auction house was a mistake. How many more people need to boycott your products until you admit it, EA? You chose DRM, Sim City is by no means a MMO and you screwed up big time.

  • Do these people actually believe the bullshit they say? I’m worried. According to EA people talking about a one day Starcraft MMO have had their dreams come true..

    Online and Multiplayer. Same with Diablo. Totally an EA version of an MMO.

    I’d love to get these son’s of bitches in the room and start punching them in the face and say things like I’m not punching you, I’m trading ideas.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!