EA offers free game to grumpy SimCity players

Electronic Arts says it’s close to fixing the problems that made the launch of SimCity such a disaster last week, and is offering a free PC game to anyone affected.

Following server issues triggered by the game’s anti-piracy DRM scheme, the game’s been down for a week. While the DRM software requires each user to maintain an ‘always online’ connection to EA’s authentication server, EA was unable to keep pace.

Now, though, EA says its increased server capacity by 120 percent and reduced game crashes by 92 percent.

“We need a few more days of data before we can assure you that the problem is completely solved and the game is running at 100 percent,” says the company’s general manager of Maxis, Lucy Bradshaw, in a blog post.

But, she adds: “A combination of optimizing our server architecture and response times, deploying these enhancements on both a series of new and the original servers and issuing a few critical client updates has achieved getting virtually everyone into the game and, once in, having a great time building cities and sharing regions.”

It’s not the first time that DRM issues have caused problems for gamers – much the same thing happened last year with the launch of Diablo III. Indeed, there’s now an electronic petition doing the rounds calling for EA to drop always-online DRM from all its games. It’s already reached nearly 60,000 signatories.

“SimCity is just the latest big flop for DRM, which hurts consumers, undermines innovation and competition, and unnecessarily preempts users’ fair use rights — all without having a real effect on ‘piracy’,” says Parker Higgins of the Electronic Frontier Organization.

EA says it expects to issue an all-clear soon, and is doing its best to win customers back.

“To get us back in your good graces, we’re going to offer you a free PC download game from the EA portfolio,” says Bradshaw. “On March 18, SimCity players who have activated their game will receive an email telling them how to redeem their free game.”