Six weeks later: SimCity Social deep dive

It’s been almost six weeks since EA brought SimCity Social to Facebook. The game is the second “Sim” franchise to make it into the social games space and it received a lot of attention when it first launched, but how does the game play this far after and what kind of new content has EA provided for the game’s users? We take another look at the game, having played it on a daily basis since launch.

As we noted at the time of launch, it’s easy to play SimCity Social without hitting a paywall for at least an hour, building a town up to a population of roughly 2,000 people. In fact, this seems to be the case until players reach of a population between 3,000 to 4,000. At this point, paywalls begin to appear, with users being presented the option of getting five friends to help pass a milestone, or spending diamonds to proceed. We opted to play the game without buying any diamonds, but one of our friends took the opposite approach, optimizing for speed of progress. While it took us a little over a week to reach a population of 10,000, it took this friend two days to do so, though they said they spent somewhere between $30 and $40.

After six weeks of two-to-three daily visits, our city’s population is approaching 40,000 and we’ve completed one of the game’s major milestones: constructing a Launch Arcology. Although we haven’t bought any diamonds, we’ve hoarded those we received from leveling up and daily rewards, so we could spend them on certain premium buildings or to skip milestones. Several friends are near the same population point and confirm spending no money either, though another friend tells us they monetized early and spent roughly $65 or so. That said, they also note that the game’s been fairly generous with diamonds of late and more people began playing with them over the past few weeks, so they’ve been able to continue progressing at a fast pace without spending more money.

Part of the reason we’ve been careful about spending diamonds is that it’s often not worth the cost to complete a quest. When a player doesn’t have all of the necessary items (or needs to hire five friends) to meet a milestone or finish construction, the game provides them with the option of buying each good individually or lumping them altogether for a single purchase. The problem is that the cost to complete a task is often rather expensive, as demonstrated by the below graphic which shows how finishing a project that’s already halfway done would cost a player nearly $8 in hard currency.

EA seems to be incorporating lessons learned from The Sims Social, particularly implementing time-sensitive events based around completing themed quests. With The Sims Social, this kind of content helped offset the game’s sagging numbers in July, bringing it from 2.6 million daily active users to 3.3 million. So far in SimCity Social, we’ve seen EA launch events like Food Frenzy  (where players build and interact with special restaurants), the SimCity Social Championships (sporting events timed to take advantage of Olympic fever) and the new Luxury Living (which seems based around blinging out a city with high-price housing). When one event ends, another is launched immediately afterwards.

Within the game, these events and the content they provide seem to be  doing a lot to keep players engaged with their own cities and visiting their neighbors’ burgs, but some of the core content is still lacking. Early on in the game, there’s a chapter-spanning quest centered around a U.F.O. that crashes near the player’s city, requiring users to unlock territory, construct certain buildings and visit friends’ cities for special items. Once the quest is complete and the wreckage is converted into a Launch Arcology, though, there’s no similar item or event to drive players to progress. Likewise, things like new housing zones and farms still haven’t arrived; nearly two months after launch, the game promises that such new content is still “coming soon.”