In 1989, Electronic Arts, hereafter EA, released a game called Sim City, which tasked you with running a city as mayor and council. It got great reviews, and helped cement simulation games as a genre in the video game industry. It was one of the reasons that The Sims, released in 2000, continues to be one of the best-selling franchises of all time.
Sim City went through it’s growth stages, every iteration building on the franchise and shaping, or terraforming, if you will, the game and what simulation games could be. Then, in 2003, after the release of Sim City 4, the series went dark (Sim City Societies doesn’t count.) The Sims continued to drive the ‘Sim” aspect of EA, and all was well.
Then, in 2013, SimCity was released, amid a flurry of issues. The game was originally to be played online only, with a strong emphasis on gamers coming together to build a region together, relying on each other’s cities for support. The game also had locked city sizes, which forced players into intense city planning, to avoid reaching the constraints too quickly.
To almost no one’s surprise, the online only aspect flopped. Gamers were angry about this because EA underestimated the server load at launch, and many gamers weren’t able to play the game for several days due to connection issues. EA heard the cries, and after a few patches, allowed the game to be played offline and saved locally. However, they still haven’t added the ability to have bigger cities, which has turned some gamers away from the game for good.
In March of 2015, Cities Skylines, a game created by Colossal Order and published by Paradox Interactive, was released, and looked to be what SimCity should have been. The biggest draw to a lot of players was the simplicity of ‘doing what you wanted’, insofar as if, say, garbage wasn’t being picked up, it was easy to figure out why, and fix it. They also had city expansion, a more attainable growth formula, and many other subtle things that put the game head and shoulders above SimCity.
And that’s where the greed comes in. Corporate greed from companies like EA, who push out half finished games so they can charge for DLC down the road, are what have allowed indie studios to thrive and grow. EA has helped shape the video game industry again, but this time, it’s because they’ve given studios a road map of what not to do. Profit isn’t a swear word, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of your fan base.
Or take the matter of Zenimax, parent company of Bethesda Softworks, makers of the hit Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, and their litigious pursuit of Mojang, creator of the blockbuster hit Minecraft. To make a long story short, Mojang had filed a trademark for a new game, titled Scrolls. Zenimax then proceeded to file a lawsuit against Mojang, claiming it was infringing on their trademark for the Elder Scrolls series.
Most companies would have tucked tail and bowed down from such a monolithic company. However, Mojang stood its ground, and in 2012, the matter was settled in court. Mojang was the victor, winning the legal battle against Zenimax, and proving that corporate clout does not always guarantee things will go your way.
Through allowing indie studios to re-imagine a genre with the same passion the corporation used to, as with SimCity and Cities Skylines; to not backing down, and turning a lawsuit into a David vs. Goliath scenario, as with Mojang and Zenimax; or through imposing your will on a studio, and forcing them to change the name of their wildly different game, as is the case with Jordan Maron and Zenimax, again; corporate greed gives indie studios the chance to shine, stand out, and thrive in a fiercely competitive space.