At first glance, it’s been a rocky year for EA Mobile. After trumpeting the debut of its most popular shooter franchise on iOS, Electronic Arts pulled Battlefield 3: Aftershock from the App Store just weeks after its February release in the face of overwhelmingly negative feedback on the game’s connection problems and broken controls. Less than a month later, the publisher shut down another iOS game from a heavy-hitting intellectual property: The Simpsons Tapped Out. But in a puzzling move last month, EA issued an in-app announcement the Rock Band on iOS would be leaving iTunes a few weeks later. No clear reason was given at the time, and EA was still charging full price for the game. In all three cases, players could only access the games if they had downloaded them previously and created a local backup — a particularly aggravating process for a game like Rock Band, which featured a catalog of individually downloadable songs.
In the blunt but appropriate words of Homer Simpson himself: “D’oh!” EA lost a little faith with its mobile gamers, to be sure.
But amid its PR nightmare, EA Mobile — and perhaps its fans — could take solace in one strand of silver lining. While Battlefield and Rock Band were pulled for negative feedback and convoluted licensing issues, EA hit the kill-switch on its Simpsons game because it was actually too popular. How’s that, you ask? When an anonymous gamer posted on EA’s help forum to ask about the apparently missing game, he or she was met with a business-like response concealing an arguably good problem. The EA rep wrote the following:
To ensure current players have the best possible experience, we’ve temporarily removed The Simpsons: Tapped Out from the App Store to limit the game’s server capacity to its current players and address connectivity and lag time issues.
In short, EA took down Tapped Out because too many people were playing it, which overloaded the servers.
At Gamescom today, EA COO Peter Moore announced that The Simpsons: Tapped Out will return to the App Store later this week. He played down the gaffe with a bit of humor. ”Quite honestly, we bit off a bit more than we could chew to start with,” he said. He even added a “D’oh!” of his own.
While the announcement should come as a relief to EA Mobile and its fans, it brings to mind some of the issues that the Redwood City publisher has with its iOS operations in the first place. For starters, one must wonder if Tapped Out‘s free-to-play model made it impossible for EA to support the game with enough servers. The news also brings to focus the fact that EA Mobile does most of its quality assurance in-house. Considering the series of unfortunate events that transpired for EA earlier this year, they may want to reconsider that policy.
The Simpsons Tapped Out should be available for free on the App Store within a couple of days and will ”feature elements from the upcoming 24th season” of the show, EA says.