Earlier this month, I wrote that Electronic Arts had made an announcement to members of its long-running but poorly received virtual world, The Sims Online, that it was re-branding the service as EA Land.
On Tuesday, however, EA announced on the official EA Land blog that it is now planning to shut the service down altogether.
"It is with mixed emotions that today we are announcing the EA Land experiment will soon draw to a close," the blog entry read. "Since 2002, EA Land/(The Sims Online) has attracted a very special group of players...and we certainly appreciate your participation in the EA Land community. The lifetime of the game has drawn to an end, and now we will be focusing on new ideas and other innovative concepts in the games arena. We'd like to thank everyone who has taken part in this online community as a unique experience in the virtual world."
According to the blog entry, EA Land will shut down for good as of August 1, 2008.
This is an odd turn of events. Why, for example, would EA go to the trouble of re-branding The Sims Online and then almost immediately shut down its successor?"
EA did not immediately return a request for comment.
However, fans of The Sims Online (TSO)/EA Land were not in a sentimental mood about EA's decision.
One commenter on the blog entry wrote, "I guess EA changed it all to EA Land, taking away the TSO name so they could close it without closing The Sims name."
That's a rather pessimistic view, of course, but it raises an interesting point.
The Sims Online was originally a much ballyhooed follow-up to The Sims, the best-selling PC game franchise of all time--which recently sold its 100 millionth unit. But TSO never caught on and was widely seen as a failed attempt to port the single-player game to an online, multiplayer environment.
Still, EA kept TSO running, even as it was eclipsed by other social virtual worlds, and it limped along with a small membership.
All along, one reason the game never really caught on was because it didn't give users the ability to create much of their own content.
But with its announcement of EA Land, EA promised that users would be able to finally create content.
Well, I guess not. Whatever the reason EA is shutting down EA Land, it certainly does put the period on the end of the rather depressing sentence that was The Sims Online.
A lot of people feel that if EA had decided to really champion the game, it could have been a hit. It had every advantage: Amazing name recognition, the spiritual guidance of master game developer and The Sims creator Will Wright, and an eager audience. But the company never got behind it, and it became a PR nightmare.
And now, finally, it is being put to sleep.