People whine and complain about games that pull this kind of thing, and yet people still buy those offending games. Look at Diablo 3. Hideous launch problems, constant whining about how this is an abomination that must be ended... and yet one of the largest single-day sales records ever. Really? I mean, not to trot out the dead old D3 horse again, but this SimCity thing is the same exact thing, the same exact user abuse. And yet, people still bought it. As long as people continue to buy this shit, they are going to continue to stuff it down our throats. We're rewarding bad behavior. And yes, I'm guilty. I did buy D3, even against my better judgement. That was the last AAA game I've bought, and that will probably be the last game I ever buy from a AAA publisher. I just won't reward this stupid crap any more. Despite the fact I own the previous SimCity games, and despite the fact that I enjoyed the hell out of them, EA (and Actiblizz, and Ubisoft, and every other asshole company that wants to treat me like a criminal and disallow me from playing games I purchased) won't get any more of my money. I'm done with it, I'm done with them.
I didn't play diablo 3 on launch day, but I did find the whole launch process to be absolutely hilarious. You would think a company that runs one of the largest MMOs in the world could LAUNCH a game without massive issues. Guess not.
I did buy and play Diablo 3, I was very disappointed in the product. It was not a game that I found enjoyable. It is no longer installed, and after hitting max level, I didn't even bother with the top level difficulty because the idea of running through the EXACT same maps repeatedly offered me none of the replay that Diablo 2 still has. Nor did the itemization offer any sort of variation, due to the limited stats and applicability of runes, etc.
Meanwhile Diablo 2 is still installed
I'm not a Sim CIty person, I have Sim City 2000 somewhere around here, but it was not a game I enjoyed much, just not my kind of a game. Nonetheless, the idea that it would be an ONLINE "MMO" style game is actually quite startling.
Another prime example of horrible online issues: Splinter Cell. A game whose single player requires a constant online connection to Ubisoft's servers. Its great fun to lose a bunch of progress simply because someone at Ubi decided to reboot the server you're connected to and thus get booted out of your single player game.
Speaking of Steam:
While I'm not a huge fan of steam they have managed to CONSISTENTLY avoid these same issues that are being experienced right now by people. Borderlands 2? No issues at all playing it on launch day. Nor any of the other games I've bought through steam, with the exception of some of the early ones, like HL2.
So how does steam manage it? Here's a hint: Look at the URLs in your network snooper sometime. You might be surprised to know that they use the amazon cloud to scale automatically. Instead of, you know, having a bunch of servers at a data center somewhere.
So is this trend going to end? No. If anything it will become more common. My only HOPE is that these companies... EA, Activision, etc. will hire some people who actually know what the hell they're doing (with relation to cloud/scalability) and not do the typical game developer thing of rediscovering the same ideas the rest of the software industry figured out decades prior.