Video games are funny. With the dawn of the internet, video games can be altered post-release. You cannot say that for any other entertainment industry. Thus, reviews should be altered to mirror changes where applicable. Sites like Polygon now have fluid reviews that can be revisited should something substantial happen. Decent concept, and I applaud the work.
But what happens when you cannot play Sim City anymore?
EA’s just released Sim City reboot of sorts features an always-on connection. If you are not online, you cannot play. So, if it is not a success and the press release comes down the pipe with the dreaded, “Less than X number of people are playing so sustaining the game is no longer feasible,” what happens then?
It could be ages, sure. Maybe it will be 10 years. Maybe, it will be a year. Can we look back at the reviews and think, “Maybe that score was a little high to a game with an unexpected expiration date.”
How can you factor in an always-on internet connection to a review? Should such a feature not instantly dock the title, at least where single-player focused games are concerned? It is one thing to consider an MMO or free-to-play shooter on a different wavelengths, but traditionally solitary Sim City? EA touts social features as the reason why a usually isolated experience now needs the internet. Reading over the reviews, most found these multiplayer features superfluous. According to Penny Arcade Report, EA wanted critics to head down to a closed location to play. One wonders if that was to ensure networking issues were ignored.
Blizzard claimed the online auction shop for Diablo III’s necessitated connection. That won’t be the case with the PlayStation 3 & 4 versions. Funny how that attitude goes from “necessary” to “not really.”
Critics exist to make products better. It’s called critic for a reason. They can shape, meld, and bend public thinking, reasons why kickback against online passes and DLC were so important, but those ships have sailed. Sim City sits (currently) at a 90 on MetaCritic. This is a game that in an undetermined amount of time will simply not work. There is no excuse for that. Hell, this is a game that for some people will not even function because of a needless DRM scheme disguised as a feature. Is that really a 90 regardless of in-game quality?
If Sim City launches and the servers melt, two things should happen: Every review should be changed as a result. Could the situation improve with more time and server fixes? Absolutely. This is about the message, and being, you know, critical. We don’t do that enough, and Sim City seems like as logical a jumping point as any. As an industry, we need t0 be less about the now and more about the future. Someone needs to call out these methods for their short-sightedness, because preservation is becoming a nightmare scenario… but only if we allow it to be.