55: 20 Million Dollar Failure

"The Sims Online should have been a sure thing. The premise reads like a gaming executive's dream sheet. A popular, long-lived franchise loved by casual and hardcore gamers alike; a game that sells at Wal-Mart as well as it does at EB Games ... The 'sure thing' is now an 'also-ran.'" Shannon Drake examines the morality tale of The Sims Online in 20 Million Dollar Failure.

20 Million Dollar Failure

Well, the article only touches on the really problem. The Sims Online was supposed to have Player-created content. But the suits were scared of it and basicly killed every tool the Will Wright wanted included. Safe became empty , and with no content provided, "cybering" became the number one activity. In a related note, Will Wright has learned, and in Spore we will have what he calls a "Massively Single Player experience" that the suits don't worry about.

That's a good point: I think the way Spore is handling single player content is very interesting. I wonder, however, how many giant walking penis monsters will be created in Spore; I imagine it will be many, by countless griefers, and that hapless players exploring the galaxy will encounter them far and wide, dynamically adding them into various places...

I'm jumping on the penis monster bandwagon right now.

Joe:
I'm jumping on the penis monster bandwagon right now.

That sentence is wrong on so many levels.

Archon:
That's a good point: I think the way Spore is handling single player content is very interesting. I wonder, however, how many giant walking penis monsters will be created in Spore; I imagine it will be many, by countless griefers, and that hapless players exploring the galaxy will encounter them far and wide, dynamically adding them into various places...

I admit I was hit with brief hysteria when reading this, but after thinking about it I realized things can't get out of control like an internet meme. In Spore there isn't any mechanism by which a potentially popular creature (perfectly acceptable or otherwise) can spread more quickly than some random, unaesthetic creation.

I was crushed that TSO never lived up to its potential. I hope the designers and executives who think they knew betteer than to simply re-produce the PC game online, where tarred and feathered. My friends and I eagerly joined the BETA only to say, WTF is this? Do they really expect me to pay to do this crap? And who didn't know that custom content is WHAT MAKES THE SIMS THE SIMS??? How stupid can you be? I want to get paid the kind of many these people make to f-up good games.

TSO is probably not an outright failure, it has probably managed to earn out by now. But it was the great hope for both a non-combat social game and an MMO that would be first to break 1M users. The first, it was a marginal success, the second wasn't even close.

--Dave

What he and his team at EA created was the online world's first great social experiment.

I think that's going a little far. What about Habitat in 1985? TinyMUD in 1989, LambdaMOO in 1990, AlphaWorld in 1995, Furcadia (my own work) in 1996, Ultima Online in 1997? All of these qualify as great social experiments in my opinion, and the last two on that list have more users than The Sims Online even today. I would say it was the first great social experiment funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. (Ultima Online cost just a few million, the others on this list all cost far less.)

-- Dr. Cat

I think we're arguing semantics at this point, Felorin. You raise an interesting point, of course, but my retort would be that the word "great" is a modifier of the phrase "social experiment," meaning grand in scale or remarkable. While the projects you've mentioned (yours included) would certainly qualify as social experiments, TSO is set apart from them by it's multi-million dollar price tag and ambitious original design. Therefore, it is "greater," relatively speaking. This is not a judgment on the merits of any of the aforementioned online games, merely a statement of fact. Speaking in terms of scope, ambition and budget, TSO was the first "great" (although inadvertent) online social experiment.

 

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