EA’s Decision to Make SimCity 2000 Free Is Brilliant, and More Companies Should Do It

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Remember SimCity 2000? If you think back on it with nostalgia, then you’re in luck—SimCity 2000 is currently available as a free download for PC from the Electronic Arts digital store, Origin. The giveaway is part of Origin’s “On the House” program, which kicked off this year and offers games for free for a limited time. Past free features have included Dead Space, Peggle, and the original Plants vs. Zombies.

SimCity 2000, for the non-super-fans out there, was released on MacOS in 1994 and has the retro graphics to prove it. In the game, players plan, build, and manage cities (or build and then plan, for the less successful ones). By giving away SimCity 2000 for free, EA isn’t losing much—the game normally retails for $5.99—but it is drumming up a whole lot of excitement among loyal fans. (When I mentioned to a friend that SimCity 2000 was now available as a free download, his eyes grew wide and he exclaimed, “Where?! When!”)

EA’s giveaways have come amid growing interest in restoring older games. The Internet Archive recently started the Internet Arcade—a project that repurposes arcade games from the 1970s through 1990s for fans to play in their browsers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also begun filing exemption requests with the U.S. Copyright Office that legalize the practice of updating old games. If other people might get the rights to update old games in the future, it’s smart for EA to be promoting its own assets now. Other gaming companies might want to do the same.