EA's botched launch of latest 'SimCity' leaves gamers fuming

Fri Mar 8, 2013 5:01pm EST

* Users complain they are unable to access game

* EA adds servers to increase stability

* Server capacity showing improvement -EA

By Malathi Nayak

March 8 (Reuters) - Electronic Arts Inc's launch of the newest game in its signature "SimCity" franchise this week was marred by a series of technical faults that shut out some gamers for days, triggering an outcry on social networks and Internet forums.

Players of the city-building simulation, now hosted wholly online rather than stored on personal computers, were plagued by constant error alerts when trying to log in.

EA blamed "server instability" caused by too many players.

The company has been in damage-control mode since the game's North American launch on Tuesday, and has scrambled to bring additional servers online. But the botched launch is a black eye for EA and a 24-year-old franchise that has proven one of the company's most reliable cash cows.

While EA acknowledged that it had more to do, it said the situation had improved since Tuesday, when it expanded the game to Europe and elsewhere.

"As we continue launches in Europe, we've seen positive feedback where the additional server capacity has already shown improvement to the service levels," said Lucy Bradshaw, general manager of EA's Maxis label, which makes the game. "We have more work to do, but tens of thousands of new players are logging in, building their cities, and enjoying the game."

The classic city-building game first came out in 1989 and became one of Electronic Arts' biggest hits. The new, $60 game was given a modern-day look and feel, and received positive reviews before its launch.

Through a post on its SimCity forum, Kip Katsarelis, senior producer of SimCity, updated fans on Thursday, saying more servers are being added over the course of the next three days.

"And, our plan is to continue to bring more servers online until we have enough to meet the demand, increase player capacity and let more people through the gates and into the game," Katsarelis said.

Although the post was intended to allay users' concerns, it triggered many outraged responses on the site.

"Did you not foresee any of this EA? We paid you for a specified product, and service. Your product and services rendered are nonexistent. When can we expect to see refunds?" posted a user identified as "Graywolf400."

EA's latest, online-only SimCity won plaudits for incorporating some of the most topical themes in urban planning, including environmental and renewable energy issues to enhance game play.

Shares of Electronic Arts dipped 0.7 percent to close at $18.58 on the Nasdaq on Friday.

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