EA's Gibeau: 'DRM is a failed dead-end strategy'

SimCity was brought crashing down at launch by its always-online requirement, this we know. However, EA Labels president Frank Gibeau has sworn blind that the requirement was a result of the designers' MMO visions, not a DRM mandate handed down to Maxis from EA. He's ragged on DRM a fair bit too, decrying it as "not a viable strategy for the gaming business." Honest.

28

SimCity was brought crashing down at launch by its always-online requirement, this we know. However, EA Labels president Frank Gibeau has sworn blind that the requirement was a result of the designers' MMO visions, not a DRM mandate handed down to Maxis from EA. He's ragged on DRM a fair bit too, decrying it as "not a viable strategy for the gaming business." Honest.

"It started with the team at Maxis that had a creative vision for a multiplayer, connected, collaborative SimCity experience where your city and my city and others' were [working together]," Gibeau told Games Industry International. "The lead designers and the producers and the programmers felt like they wanted to tell us a multiplayer, cooperative city story around SimCity."

Gibeau insisted, "At no point in time did anybody say 'you must make this online.'" He added, "You don't build an MMO because you're thinking of DRM--you're building a massively multiplayer experience, that's what you're building."

The EA veteran railed against DRM pretty hard, saying "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. For the folks who have conspiracy theories about evil suits at EA forcing DRM down the throats of Maxis, that's not the case at all."

It's certainly a change of tune from 2008, when complaints over activation limits in Spore and Crysis Warhead lead Gibeau to declare DRM "essential to the economic structure we use to fund our games." (Side note: activation limits! Remember when it was the most frightful form of DRM? My, how innocent we were.) A lot has changed in five years, and it's become increasingly clear that no, draconian DRM isn't a good solution.

Now, side-stepping the issue of whether this account is true, he has a point. We know that a game's DRM is cracked often before it even launches. We know that the mindset which drives people to pirate isn't stopped by having to find a crack and perhaps suffering a few disabled features. What we know can help is creating an online element compelling enough that people will want to experience it, and will pay to be sure they can.

Whether SimCity's online bits are actually exciting enough, well, that's a separate matter.

Gibeau noted he was "disappointed" that EA "didn't do a better job communicating" SimCity's online nature ahead of release, which was an unpleasant surprise for many.

Still, it's a good game, and it sold over 1.1 million copies in its first fortnight. People who bought early have been offered a free game from a respectable selection and hey, if you're one of them, remember that you only have until Saturday to redeem it.

Filed Under
From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 27, 2013 5:30 PM

    Alice O'Connor posted a new article, EA's Gibeau: 'DRM is a failed dead-end strategy'.

    SimCity was brought crashing down at launch by its always-online requirement, this we know. However, EA Labels president Frank Gibeau has sworn blind that the requirement was a result of the designers' MMO visions, not a DRM mandate handed down to Maxis from EA. He's ragged on DRM a fair bit too, decrying it as "not a viable strategy for the gaming business." Honest.

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 5:31 PM

      lool

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 5:36 PM

      Ok i'll miss Alice when she goes. That's funny.

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 5:46 PM

      I have to ask, Alice: did you edit this before I posted http://www.shacknews.com/chatty?id=29918349#item_29918349 ?

      If so, then great minds think alike. :-)

      Or... maybe it's just that I dwell on the past a bit much, which is also true.

      Gibeau said, "At no point in time did anybody say 'you must make this online.'" But at the same time, it does seem like EA has been saying, "Your title must sell X million... here are some suggestions that we have that can get you there, but we're not giving you any extra funding." That's for the classical single-player games as well. For SimCity, the architecture of the code seems to suggest that the game would've been perfectly capable with a "leave me disconnected; shut off Sims, players in adjacent cities, etc.", and there would've been demand from players who just want to mess around with a simple city... but EA Maxis' answer to that was, "No. You must be always connected." And in the abscence of any genuine candor on the subject, some of us gamers are prone to jump to the worst-case scenario: "you must make this online."

      I also think that EA's PR handling of the SimCity launch was a total disaster, and Gibeau is trying to downplay the severity of how bad the launch was, and how it calls numerous conventions of game launches into question (especially how these kinds of games are reviewed, given that the press experiences in the test server environment prior to launch were so different from the post-release experience in the production server environment).

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 5:55 PM

      That's such a load of crap. I don't buy it.

      • reply
        March 27, 2013 5:55 PM

        They could have given us an offline mode, as has been discovered, it could have easily been done.

        • reply
          March 27, 2013 9:50 PM

          They could've easily added a turn based strategy mode to TF2, but that wasn't the game they were trying to make.

          • reply
            March 27, 2013 10:20 PM

            [deleted]

          • reply
            March 27, 2013 11:41 PM

            Your comparison is flawed. I can fire up TF2 and play offline with quite competent bots.

            • reply
              March 28, 2013 5:29 AM

              did you miss the Haxim part? yeah.

          • reply
            March 28, 2013 2:14 AM

            Haha, I don't think you know how to discuss.

          • reply
            March 28, 2013 6:08 AM

            Do revel in being a troll?

          • reply
            March 28, 2013 6:44 AM

            [deleted]

          • reply
            March 28, 2013 7:13 AM

            oh you

          • reply
            March 28, 2013 7:17 AM

            lol you guys did this to yourself with all that FREE HAXIM nonsense

            • reply
              March 28, 2013 7:22 AM

              He's an integral part of our community! Who else would have attempted to wage all-out war on foo's server with an army worthy of Mordor of skeletons and creepers?

            • reply
              March 28, 2013 9:32 AM

              He is an asshole, but he's our asshole.

          • reply
            March 28, 2013 7:18 AM

            I don't think the offline thing is that big of a deal at this point. The problem is that the game they were trying to make just doesn't work, given how they chose to make it.

          • reply
            March 28, 2013 7:19 AM

            That's a ridiculous comparison.

            • reply
              March 28, 2013 8:12 AM

              Sorta, but why isn't there an offline mode for World of Warcraft if you don't want to play with other people?

              • reply
                March 28, 2013 9:39 AM

                Private servers? My buddy had one set up a while back.

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 6:28 PM

      they will say anything to keep you buying.

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 6:59 PM

      I am not buying the bullshit.

    • DM7 legacy 10 years
      reply
      March 27, 2013 7:34 PM

      All would probably be forgiven if you make Simcity offline. Right?

      • reply
        March 27, 2013 7:45 PM

        Even with offline, the game is still incomplete. Bugs, traffic
        , etc. :(

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 7:38 PM

      teehee

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 8:13 PM

      Its funny if this game was torrentable they would blamed their 1.1 million sales on piracy saying it should have been high. They would have sold more if they sold it on steam. I hate Origin its garbage and ive stopped playing EA games that arnt on steam.

      EA stop trying to have your cake and eat it too, switch to steam. Take a little piece of a huge pie, instead of your huge piece of a little pie.

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 11:20 PM

      EA is 4 days early.

    • reply
      March 28, 2013 6:14 AM

      [deleted]

    • reply
      March 28, 2013 7:18 AM

      Simple response for this one. Prove it EA. Prove that DRM is dead and this PR fiasco will go away. Prove it and gain your credibility back.

    • reply
      March 28, 2013 8:03 PM

      I find that hard to believe, as they could have the MMO component without forcing everyone to play online. While I'm sure there are plenty of extroverts that love the idea of MMO, but I tend to think of Sim City games as more an introverts game, and most those would prefer it be offline.

      However, with this in mind, I have played it with my wife and daughter, but I would be happier to be able to host my own server and have them connect to me via internet or LAN and have my saves hosted locally.

      I've had nothing but trouble with their online vision, and I have very little faith that their servers will still be online years from now when I wish to return to my city.

    • reply
      April 2, 2013 9:27 PM

      " EA Labels president Frank Gibeau has sworn blind that the requirement was a result of the designers' MMO visions, not a DRM mandate handed down to Maxis from EA."

      Bull. Shit.

Hello, Meet Lola