Amazon suspends sales of SimCity video game

SimCity game screen
Image caption Cities built by players are part of larger online regions

Ongoing problems with the latest version of SimCity led Amazon to briefly stop selling the game.

The web retailer stopped sales late on 7 March as players reported continued problems with the city building title.

The latest version of SimCity was launched on 5 March and, like many current games, demands players stay online as they play.

EA has also taken steps to fix login delays by turning off some features to lighten the load on game servers.

Prior to this latest release, SimCity was a stand-alone game, but EA has added the online element to infuse the title with more realism.

Now player cities exist as part of online regions and share some characteristics of those virtual environments such as pollution, crime and essential resources.

The online requirement is also seen as an attempt to curb piracy of the title as a web connection is required even if a player shuns the chance to connect their cities to others.

However, the requirement for all players of the game to be connected has led some to wait 30 minutes or more to play. The server problems have led to sluggish response times, crashes and other bugs.

Amazon's sales suspension of the downloadable PC version of the game only lasted a few hours, but it has put a warning note on the product page about the "issues" with the game. These have contributed to the one-star score purchasers have given SimCity on Amazon.

Image caption Amazon has posted a warning about the ongoing problems with SimCity

In official discussion forums and on its Twitter feed EA has apologised for the trouble players have had.

In one of its latest messages, an EA spokeswoman said it had added server capacity and rolled out a quick fix to SimCity servers to speed up game play and get more people into the game.

To lighten the load on its back-end servers, EA turned off some features including leader boards and achievements. It has also removed the option to run the game at its fastest setting, known as "cheetah speed". Instead, all cities will now run at the lower "llama speed".

In a message posted to the official EA discussion forums, SimCity's senior producer Kip Katsarelis said the launch week had been "challenging" for the company.

'Growing pains'

However, he added, there was a positive side to the delays.

"What we saw was that players were having such a good time they didn't want to leave the game, which kept our servers packed and made it difficult for new players to join," he wrote.

Games journalist Nathan Grayson, writing on the Rock Paper Shotgun website, praised EA for keeping players informed through Facebook, Twitter and discussion forums about the problems. However, he wondered why games firms were still so unprepared for the launch day deluge of players.

Games makers may laud the always online requirement as the future, he said, but so far no studio had got it right or used that permanent link to do more with a game.

"I haven't seen a single one of these things stick their initial landings or catapult a pre-existing series to new heights," he said. "I have quite a bit of trouble declaring these things 'growing pains' when I barely see any, you know, growth."

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