Update #2: Darkspore is available again on Steam.

Update #1: Contrary to the post on the official Darkspore forums earlier, EA and Maxis have stated that Darkspore is still a supported title. The news comes first via Maxis PR manager Charlie Sinhaseni's Twitter account.

A new message appeared on the official forums stating that the issue preventing some players from connecting has been resolved. The title has not yet been made available again on Steam.

Original Story:

In 2011, EA and Maxis released Darkspore, an action-RPG to middling critical success (65 on Metacritic). The title built upon the creation mechanics of 2008's Spore and featured both single-player and multi-player modes. It's having server trouble right now, and normally that wouldn't be something worth writing about.

The problem is that Darkspore, much like Maxis' SimCity, requires an online connection, even when playing alone. Problems first surfaced via NeoGAF and then were confirmed on the official Darkspore forums in the following statement.

Darkspore is no longer developed. It is for almost all intents & purposes an abandoned title. If you cannot play the game & have flicked through technical issues for any fixes, then contact EA Customer Support; especially if it regards CD-Keys or refunds.

Error 73003 has gone unfixed & remains an issue.

Error Code 3 has arisen for the majority/all & remains an issue.

I will however keep the forums here as clean & tidy as possible in my spare time. Why? Well why not. If it helps anyone with minor problems, or find their way somewhere, then that's great.

I wish you all luck, no matter what path you choose with Darkspore.

~Inquisitor Laine 

These errors are reportedly widespread (as indicated in the statement), and as a result, the title has been removed from Steam. It continues to be available on EA's Origin service for $19.99.

We've reached out to EA for comment on why Darkspore requires an online connection, if there is any hope of it being patched, and why it is still for sale on Origin given that the company is aware of the problems and has identified the title as "abandoned."

[Source: Darkspore Forums via NeoGAF]


Our Take
This isn't the digital future, but it is a digital future in which publishers mismanage communication and end-of-life preparations. This is a poorly handled situation, especially since the title is still available for sale with widespread, newly emerged game-breaking bugs. It should not be used as a direct analog for next-generation consoles or Microsoft's pre-reversal plans. 

When we met with Phil Spencer at E3, I asked him about end-of-life preparations. Even though it was very early (the Xbox One isn't even available yet, of course), he assured us that the company was already thinking about how games would outlive the hardware. In other words, Microsoft was ready to remove the 24-hour checkins at the end of Xbox One's supported life cycle. Obviously, we don't need to worry about that now.

I have been a critic of Microsoft's communication strategy, but it would be an error to equate EA's failure with Darkspore to the entirety of Microsoft's digital vision or the gaming industry at large. 

Update: It turns out there was mismanaged communication at play, but the fault seems to lie on an overly aggressive community manager rather than EA and Maxis. 

Find out more about "Our Take" here.