SimCity population '100 percent above' EA's estimations

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.

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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.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 15, 2013 4:45 PM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, SimCity population '100 percent above' EA's estimations.

    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.

    • reply
      March 15, 2013 4:49 PM

      the more she talks the more i just want to start throwing shit at her.

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      March 15, 2013 4:56 PM

      facepalm. so much facepalm.

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      March 15, 2013 5:00 PM

      Nice, guess they sold a lot. All their design decisions totally justified!

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        March 15, 2013 5:04 PM

        People bought it BECAUSE of the always on DRM. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

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          March 16, 2013 12:10 AM

          I wouldn't say that. I like playing with friends.

          Was starting to get a little annoyed with limited activations, but that's beside the point.

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      March 15, 2013 5:02 PM

      and this is why publishers push pre-orders!

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      March 15, 2013 5:54 PM

      EA take the money and run...

      -Steve Miller Band

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      March 15, 2013 6:41 PM

      Instead of 1 million copies, they sold 2 million copies!!!! OmGGGGGG

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      March 15, 2013 6:56 PM

      The sad part is, I'm fairly certain they are only saying this to give an somewhat plausible excuse for the utter shambles their launch was.

      "Gee, the amount of copies of our game you bought in the last week caught us totally unprepared!!"

      Yet less than a week after launch, they double the number of servers... so either nobody bought the game outside of preorders (doubtful) or it wasn't that hard to add a bunch in a timely fashion, they just neglected to do it before launch.

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        March 16, 2013 9:27 AM

        Given the word of mouth about how badly the game fell apart, "nobody bought the game outside of preorders" seems rather plausible to me!

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          March 16, 2013 12:41 PM

          Lol, well you know how shackers (and the internet in general) are... if you state anything as a fact, you'd better have sources to prove it ;)

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            March 16, 2013 7:29 PM

            The internet in general wants facts to back up statements?
            Are we on the same internet?

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      March 15, 2013 9:44 PM

      *cough* bullshit *cough*

      You can't tell me they couldn't gauge interest from pre-orders. Even so, if they had capacity for 500k players, why ship 2 million copies? (or whatever sales were)

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        March 15, 2013 10:16 PM

        Because not every distributor reports their pre-order numbers on an hourly or daily basis. Distributors may report on a weekly/bi-weekly basis and if EA wasn't expecting there to be a huge number of pre-orders, they wouldn't think to ask their distributors what their sales numbers were on out-of-band schedule.

        Similarly, who knows when keys were sent out and when people decided to activate them. If EA wasn't expecting a huge influx, they wouldn't think to monitor activation counts.

        "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

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          March 16, 2013 7:09 AM

          If origin is required to play regardless of where the game was purchased, I'd assume many, if not a majority, of preorders were direct from EA.

          I don't recall seeing any pre-order bonuses from the other retailers?

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      March 15, 2013 11:36 PM

      "Ok so to beta test SimCity, our online-only game, let's start 35 days before launch! Oh and let's limit gameplay in that beta to 1 hour in the first two betas, then in the third beta we'll go to 4 hours! That should cover all possibilities right? No one ever plays games for more than 4 hours, right? Oh and we'll get 3 weeks after the first beta, one week after the second beta and another week after the third beta to test and fix all the bugs. Oh, and we'll only enable regional features in the third beta, because a week to test those should be plenty, for one of the biggest franchises in gaming. Yup, this sounds like a solid plan!"
      -- Lucy Bradshaw's train(wreck) of thought, prior to SimCity's launch, according to her own words

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        March 16, 2013 8:38 AM

        Gawd so much bs. Forget about server problems, the game is filled with bugs. You dont notice them until you put a certain amount of time in your city which might explain the 1h limit during the beta.. Hell im starting to believe that removing cheetah speed had nothing to do with server stability.

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      March 16, 2013 9:34 AM

      simcity.GetFudgedPopulation()

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      March 16, 2013 12:11 PM

      I never buy EA games anymore. I suggest everyone else do the same.

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      March 16, 2013 12:37 PM

      People played in sessions longer than you anticipated? Really? Maybe that has something to do with the fact you disabled cheetah speed???

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      March 16, 2013 7:24 PM

      This just in: SimCity is popular. Details at eleven.

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      March 17, 2013 12:37 AM

      "Even in a private game where you own the entire region and have elected to play solo, we still do a great deal of activity on our servers to keep the state of your region up to date for all of the cities you play to have the same information."

      "Our servers can now support several hundred thousand peak concurrent players"

      So you're saying, my home computer can't handle 1/500,000th of the work your servers do?

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        March 17, 2013 7:20 AM

        Fix the game then I'll play. As it is right now C and I have no meaning, just build all R and parks and you win.

        SimPaint.

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      March 17, 2013 10:04 AM

      Man, this is just like the statements released by EA after the Mass Effect 3 ending shit hit the fan. Every time they open their mouths, they make themselves look even worse.

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      March 17, 2013 2:29 PM

      Didn't they give the exact same line when BF3 had server issues at launch?

      Does EA just not realize that popular games are popular because lots of people play them?

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      March 18, 2013 5:09 AM

      They probably used GetFudgePopulation for their numbers.

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        March 18, 2013 6:00 AM

        Their numbers are total BS, and reek of PR desperation.

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      March 18, 2013 6:01 AM

      This game is stupid and dumb. They can use that as a quote in a vid or something.

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      March 18, 2013 7:40 AM

      I think we're missing the more interesting internal picture at EA... a product manager royally messed up. Not the launch per-say, but the demand and expectation for the game. Because they underestimated demand, they also under spent on marketing and investment in launch support. Which mean they had to fast-track a lot of stuff rather than plan ahead. That usually means it costs more. Sometimes a LOT more. So, I'd be willing to bet even with the 100% under estimation on game sales, because of the lack of accurate forecast they're still in the red and even more so than they should be based on raw game sales.

      *IF* it had an offline mode that wouldn't have required additional server capacity and additional support staff (yeah, just a wild guess they might have put a few more bodies in place to handle the crushing wave of customer calls) they wouldn't have to pay a premium on rapid deployment and patches which would have helped the game's P&L.

      but, this is all guesswork.

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      March 18, 2013 7:40 AM

      Total dick comment here but its true. I'm having a blast with Tropico 4. During the Simcity launch fiasco it was $9.99. Can't beat that with a stick! I would have enjoyed playing Simcity but EA/Maxis has some learning to do before I ever trust them again. I was there for the original Simcity,,, played the hell out of it. Too bad the "suits" over-encumbered this new version.

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        March 18, 2013 11:25 AM

        I think I'd just prefer to play an Anno game.

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