Being the first SimCity game in over a decade, you'd think that EA would have known that demand for their city-planning game would be through the roof. But as SimCity's bungled launch proved, that was not the case. In fact, a new interview with Maxis' Lucy Bradshaw reveals exactly how much the company had grossly underestimated launch demand.
"We've reached peaks just in the first week that were literally 100 percent above our early estimations," Bradshaw said, saying the company did not expect "a huge surge in pre-orders within the last week" and lengthy game sessions once players were able to connect.
According to Bradshaw, players were playing much longer than anticipated. "We did not expect out of the gate was the length of time each player played: seven hours average at launch," she told VentureBeat. "Which is cool but again meant we had players on for long amounts of time and this affected our peaks. The ways in which they navigated the game, which being a sandbox style game is not predictive. These just led to results that we did not experience in our Betas."
Of course, a proper beta would have better predicted such behavior. However, SimCity opted to hold extremely restrictive beta tests, something Bradshaw does regret after-the-fact. "We needed longer, more comprehensive beta tests," she said. "I do think that a different approach to our betas would have better informed our automated load testing and helped us to better analyze the results from both of these means of testing. So, yes, if we had it to over again, I would change how we approached our betas and I would have used this information to improve our load testing."
Apparently, relying heavily on "internal betas" didn't properly predict real-world behaviors. Some would argue that this misguided approach is especially ironic coming from a studio that specializes in simulating human behavior. "We had completed numerous internal betas and server load testing and nothing indicated that we would have any issues." Clearly, that wasn't the case.