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INTERVIEW PART 2: Jordan Edelstein outlines the brand plan for SimCity

INTERVIEW PART 2: Jordan Edelstein outlines the brand plan for SimCity

On Friday, Edelstein spoke to MCV about the changes videogame marketing is underoing. Today, we drill into SimCity specifically for more.

What is the core of the SimCity brand?

The first thing is brand recognition, with SimCity being the franchise that really started the simulation genre back in 1989.

It was really the origin of the Maxis brand.

You can almost walk up to anyone who has been around gaming at all in the last 20, 30 years, and say, “have you heard of SimCity?” and the answer is, “Yes.”

So we’re starting from a place of recognition and clarity. I think SimCity has always been about the core simulation and letting people play and poke and prod with a city, and the simulation behind it has always been about authenticity, mirroring real life. That’s been true throughout the series, and it remains true as we talk about the new one.

The last piece is the connection to the Maxis brand, the Maxis studio – the team in Emeryville. It brings a lot of passion to the people who work on it, the fan base. Lucy Bradshaw, who heads up the whole Maxis business, said that every time we’d introduce a new Sims product, [she’d be asked], “When’s a new SimCity coming out?” So that passion makes it a fun one to work on.

How do you capitalise on that recognition leading up to launch?

I think the most important thing we can do is talk to our core fans about how this is true to SimCity and [what they understand the game to be] in their heads, that we’ll be able to deliver on playing with life.

So we’ll leverage it, but we also feel a responsibility to reassure the fans that the experience will be one they enjoy, that we’re coming to it with a reverence.

I think as we talk about, and unveil new features over time, some of it will be, “Hey, if you’ve always loved SimCity you will continue to love the new one because of this.” As well as, “Here are some new features that we’ve always wanted to integrate into SimCity, but we haven’t been able to.” So the key will be our ability to communicate that we’re not introducing new things in any flippant manner, we’re doing it in a way that fits the SimCity and Maxis brand heritage, but also brings it up to date as a modern experience.

Was there much repair work that needed to be done on the brand to get people excited for a relaunch?

In all candour, the last SimCity that we put out as a company, SimCity Societies – which was not done by Maxis – is not a product that anyone felt really great about. So we’re definitely [aware of that].

When we announced SimCity, a number of comments were like, “don’t make it like SimCity Societies.” It was candidly fair feedback. I think we’ve gotten to the point now where we’ve shown enough of the game and a lot of the development have come out and said, “These are the guys that worked on SimCity 4, the last one everyone loved.” So dealing with that last misstep has definitely been a challenge.

I think the other one for us has been the concept of multi-city. So everything you do in SimCity has been in the context of your four walls, and I think as we initially started talking about multi-city, everyone assumed we meant multiplayer. In reality, we’re managing that back, and saying, “No, you can play all this stuff alone, you don’t have to play with other people.”

But the concept of cities impacting each other is sort of the next evolution of where it makes sense to take the franchise because cities never exist in a bubble by themselves. So I think we’ve gotten people there, we’ve explained – the development team have spoken on it, and we’ve done it in our marketing – the idea of being able to play the game alone, but multi-city being a part of the experience.

Always-on is an issue that many players and press alike have taken exception to. How are you managing that?

The key to that is really explaining why we did it.

The people who are designing the game are long-time SimCity people. Again, a lot of the SimCity 4 crew is involved. People jump to DRM, but that’s not a driving force for the development team. We’ve introduced SimCity World and the concept of a global market that impacts player cities here at Gamescom, and social features such as challenges and leaderboards so you can see how you stack up against your friends. But we’re not forcing you to play with other people, but it has benefits: there’s a broader world out there and that makes the overall simulation experience more real.

That was the impetus for the always-on decision. We’ve got betas planned to be able to test, and we’ve got learning from EA in terms of what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, and lessons learned in terms of stability of service.

We’ll pour our soul into making sure that experience is a positive one.

Thank you for your time!


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