Two Bad Launches: Why Rockstar Is Succeeding Where EA Failed
from the post-mortem dept
Since recollections of the SimCity debacle have been re-conjured thanks to EA giving the finger to the modding community (read: mega-enormo fanbase), perhaps it’s useful to examine how a painful launch doesn’t have to turn your entire fan-base against a company. Unless you’ve been living under a rock that doesn’t get a TV signal lately, you’re probably aware that the latest iteration of Grand Theft Auto was recently released. One of the big draws of the game, the online component, wasn’t available immediately, instead reserved to a tantalizing “coming soon” tab in the game’s pause menu. Simply as disclosure, I know this because I’m a paying GTA customer.
Well, the GTA Online launch kicked off this week and it went about as smooth as Hugh Jackman’s face after he hasn’t shaved for twenty-six days. The vast majority of gamers couldn’t even get the online portion of the game to launch due to crowded server issues, and those that did faced problems with getting the game to behave correctly. So, you imagine Rockstar got the same response as EA, right? Wrong. Because Rockstar told everyone that things were going to be rocky and have since proved that it’s at least as interested in fixing the issues as it is in making money. See the following warning:
There will be the typical growing pains for an online game, including but not limited to crashes, glitches, crazy bugs, gameplay modes and mechanics that need re-balancing and other surprises! Even in GTAV Story Mode, some of you may have seen a few odd and even amusing little glitches out there last week. This sort of thing is inevitable in a massive open-world game and there’ll surely be lots more unexpected oddities like this in the Online world next week – rest assured we’ll be monitoring and actively doing all we can to smooth such things out as they happen, but we need your help to find them, as well as your feedback to help fine tune all of the game’s systems so everything is perfectly balanced.
This stands in stark contrast to EA’s launch of SimCity, which resulted in most of the same feedback they received when it announced the game and in beta: stop it with the always-online crap. EA wasn’t willing to listen to its users, where Rockstar is actively recruiting the feedback. This makes a world of difference, including creating a sense of unity between the game makers and their fans. It’s important and it’s something EA got horribly wrong.
As for how it’s handling things post-not-awesome-launch? Well, in addition to going the normal route of actively informing fans what is currently going wrong, what it’s doing to make fixes, and how it’s going to do so, Rockstar told people it doesn’t want their money until it gets things right for everyone.
For the time being and until we have been able to get everybody access to GTA Online and things are running smoothly, we have disabled the option of purchasable GTA$ cash packs. Players can however keep on earning GTA$ by pulling off Jobs and other profitable gameplay activities rather than purchasing cash packs.
Can you even imagine a fantasy world where EA refuses to sell you things until it gets the core game stable? It certainly didn’t happen with SimCity. Once again, connecting with your fans and being awesome will get you everything in the gaming world. Sure, people are frustrated with how GTA Online has performed thus far, but nobody is calling for heads to roll. Rockstar can take full credit for that.