SimCity Will Need An Internet Connection
December 19, 2012

SimCity To Require Internet Connection, EA Origin Account

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

The original SimCity, released back in 1989, required players to provide power and water to the digital denizens who came to live in the game´s micropolis. Subsequent sequels offered virtual city planners the ability to provide more amenities and ever greater and more complex communities, but the upcoming version will add the Internet to the gaming experience.

Players won´t have to provide Internet access to the “sims” — the digital people who live in the world — but will need one themselves to play the game and, more importantly, save their progress. When the new SimCity arrives in March, players will be required to have a persistent Internet connection, reports Digital Trends.

Developer Maxis and publisher Electronic Arts announced back in March this would be required, but until this week it wasn´t clear players would need to be logged into Electronic Arts´ Origin digital game store and online game network to save any and all progress. Origin will not only be required to launch the game, but players will also have to stay logged in the entire game session.

According to a recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread, short outages would be handled “gracefully,” and a few minutes won´t be a problem, but there will be no option for offline saves. All save files will instead be stored in the cloud.

As noted by Strategy Informer this week, Electronic Arts is on familiar ground. The company has been down this road before with past titles including Spore and Command & Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight, both of which required persistent Internet connections and resulted in some gameplay issues. More recently, Dragon Age servers reportedly crashed with players losing their paid-for download content and locking out many players.

So what is the reason for SimCity to have this requirement, a game that ironically could be laptop friendly and playable on airplanes where gamers could look out the window for inspiration?

The official line from Maxis is the game requires a constant Internet connection due to multiplayer features in the game, including a global Sim economy that could reflect every player´s city.

However, the more likely rational is not one merely of a virtual economy, but rather could be a method to control video game piracy.

This remains a significant problem and one many companies have struggled with for years to solve.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told Forbes magazine in August only about 5 percent of people playing PC games actually paid for them. The other 95 percent were pirated.

While those numbers do seem quite high, TechCrunch reported the UK Video game industry reported losses of $2.31 billion in 2010. Piracy also cost about 1,000 jobs, so it is far from a victimless crime when you consider that aspect.

And the industry isn´t taking this sitting down.

Among the biggest countermeasures adopted by game publishers has been DRM (Digital Rights Management), which make it increasingly difficult for digital pirates, but not impossible. The problem is these measures can cause problems and keep legitimate owners from enjoying the game.

The other trend has been a move towards online game services that require a login even for off-line, single player gaming. This ensures only one copy can be running at a time, but also offers legitimate owners a little extra in the process.

Electronic Arts launched Origin, formerly the EA Store, in June 2011 as a digital distribution and digital rights management system. The company reportedly took a cue from Valve´s Steam service, Origin´s leading competitor, in providing more than just a download service or online retail outlet.

Both Steam and Origin provide cloud game saves and auto-patching of titles, the latter ensuring all players have the latest version of a particular title, which is required for multiplayer matches. The services also provide a way of tracking achievements and rewards.

The cloud-based saves also make it possible to pick up and play on another computer, but for games like SimCity it makes it impossible to play on the go.

So those who are inspired while in the air will likely just have to wait until they and their laptops are back on the ground before designing that dream city.