Since its inception back in 1989, the SimCity series has been a constant joy for fans of city-building sims and god games. Masterminded by legendary designer Will Wright, SimCity placed players in the shoes of a mayor asked to plan and oversee the development and continued prosperity of a city. Beyond that goal, everything was up to the player. The layout, identity, and direction of progress the city took were all up for grabs, and so players loved setting up and living out their city-building fantasies with Wright’s phenomenally popular game.
SimCity has spawned a number of sequels, spin-offs, and other titles, with the latest being 2013’s somewhat controversial SimCity. It’s been some time since the last major SimCity instalment, which has some players asking the question: will we see another SimCity game made by EA? After all, the launch of the previous SimCity didn’t go particularly well, so it wouldn’t be a total shock if the franchise was allowed to lay dormant for a while. We’re going to take a dive into SimCity and hopefully answer that very question.
A brief history of SimCity
Will Wright created SimCity in 1989 after making Raid on Bungeling Bay. That game was a 2D shooter with fairly complex maps and mechanics, but Wright was particularly interested in the feature by which he created maps for the game. He discovered that he enjoyed creating those maps more than he actually liked playing Bungeling Bay, and thus was SimCity created; a game in which making maps was the principal objective rather than engaging in any kind of action in those maps.
After the release of the original 1989 game, several sequels followed. The best-known of these is arguably SimCity 2000, released in 1993 and still played by gamers around the world. SimCity 2000 was ported to several other systems, including the SNES, Sega Saturn, and even the Game Boy Advance. For a time in 2014, EA even offered SimCity 2000 for free via its PC Origin gaming platform. Several other sequels followed, of course – including SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, and a number of console spin-offs – but SimCity 2000 remains the game for which gamers are most nostalgic.
SimCity (2013) – a postmortem
Unfortunately, in 2013, EA and Maxis would arguably taint the SimCity brand name for the foreseeable future. SimCity was an unmitigated disaster at launch. A game which had traditionally been multiplayer-only was now forcing players to have working internet connections if they wanted to play it. At the game’s outset, thousands upon thousands of players piled in to check out the game, crashing it and ensuring that nobody could play with a stable experience. It’s worth noting that Will Wright wasn’t involved in this one; he even called the messy pile-up of the launch “inexcusable”.
Since then, SimCity has been patched to include a single-player mode, and EA has shut down the studio responsible for its development. Today, SimCity is a playable, if basic, city-building sim. It doesn’t quite offer the depth and complexity its forebears brought to the table, but it’s pretty, well-crafted, and absorbing even to this day. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the brand name has done a great job of recovering post-SimCity; the series has lain dormant since 2014, when a mobile freemium game titled SimCity BuildIt was released. That game remains operational today, but it doesn’t really evoke the spirit of classic SimCity.
Will EA create another SimCity?
At time of writing, EA being interested in creating another SimCity seems unlikely. The studio responsible for SimCity’s creation has been shut down, and original franchise creator Will Wright is currently working on a rather mysterious mobile game called Proxi. Without the franchise’s creative leading light to guide it, another SimCity-style disaster could happen. Of course, EA has likely learned its lesson, and it does still retain the rights to the name, so never say never. However, given EA’s reluctance to announce anything, it’s not looking likely.
Thankfully, we don’t need SimCity to scratch the itch it’s left behind. Paradox Interactive’s excellent Cities: Skylines has stepped in to fill the void left by Wright’s baby after the 2013 game debacle. Many gamers think Cities: Skylines is actually superior to SimCity; it’s deeper, has more features, and is regularly updated with free and paid DLC packs to tide gamers over. Cities: Skylines is the game everyone wanted SimCity – the 2013 version – to be, and if you’re looking for a superlative city-builder in 2021, you should look no further than that game.
There might be some hope for another EA-led city builder, although it’s fairly slim. Early last year, EA Maxis began advertising for staff to create a brand new IP. They didn’t specify what that IP might be, and it’s true that it probably won’t turn out to be a spiritual successor to SimCity, given how much Cities: Skylines has cornered the market. However, Maxis’ involvement in a new game should be cause for excitement in and of itself. Some murmurs have been rippling regarding “live service” gaming, which won’t be much of a balm to gamers who still remember 2013’s SimCity, but there’s cause for cautious optimism, as EA clearly hasn’t forgotten Maxis.
To answer the question, then: it’s very unlikely that there will be another EA-led SimCity. EA knows the brand is worth a lot in terms of player kudos and potential profit, so it’s also unlikely to let go of the brand in order to allow other developers to work with it. Thankfully, we have Cities: Skylines – as well as a number of other excellent city-building games including Frostpunk – to keep us entertained in SimCity’s absence. Let’s hope that if there is another SimCity, EA learns the lessons imparted to it in 2013 and simply creates what gamers want: a deep, complex, and player-friendly city-builder.