EA Declares Always Online DRM 'A Failed Dead End'

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Mar 28, 2013 07:43 AM EDT

Microtransactions? Sure. DRM? Not anymore.

Speaking with GamesIndustry, EA Labels head Frank Gibeau says the company is no longer interested in the "always online DRM" concept. Apparently, all it takes is a massive launch failure in order for the company to finally see the light.

"DRM is a failed dead-end strategy," said Gibeau, declaring it, "not a viable strategy for the gaming business." So we can move on from the issue, right? Apparently not.

Gibeau took the opportunity to ensure that EA's hands were completely clean of the entire "SimCity" fiasco.

"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...At no point in time did anybody say 'you must make this online'. It was the creative people on the team that thought it was best to create a multiplayer collaborative experience, and when you're building entertainment you don't always know what the customer is going to want. You have to innovate and try new things and surprise people and in this particular case that's what we sought to achieve."

According to Gibeau, always online wasn't a DRM issue, but the result of trying to make "SimCity" an MMO. As he puts it, "If you play an MMO, you don't demand an offline mode, you just don't. And in fact, SimCity started out and felt like an MMO more than anything else and it plays like an MMO."

Granted, but "SimCity" has a long history of never being an MMO. It's actually thrived as a franchise due to being a single player game. Sure, interaction with other cities would've been a good option to offer, but not a requirement. It's kind of why the cities in the game are run by mayors instead of committees.

So does this mean we've seen the last of this sort of feature for EA games? I wouldn't count on it. The company has something of a history of back peddling. In late February, EA's CFO Blake Jorgensen declared that all EA games would feature in-game transactions in one form or another, only to have a change of heart on the issue earlier this month.

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