INTERVIEW: The Sims

Ben Parfitt
INTERVIEW: The Sims

Looking back at The Sims franchise, what would you say was key to its initial success?

The Sims is unique in that it is so universal. It represents life. You can go to any country in the world and people play The Sims and they can find themselves in it. This is because it is a game that transcends borders, demographics and gender.

One of the main reasons for its popularity is the ability for the players to transport themselves into that world. Also, it is a game that makes you laugh out loud. As developers, we took advantage of that and responded with a lot of quirky humour that evoked great emotion out of the players.

The Sims was one of the first games to open up gaming to a much wider audience and it rewards and attracts a certain type of player that is more self-motivated and creative. It is based in a world that everyone can recognise and feel comfortable in – even if they are a non-gamer.

When they first experience The Sims, almost everyone creates a representation of themselves and then their family, their house and their neighbours. I think for a lot of people it captures the essence of juggling the ups and downs of their real life, but in an environment that is fun and safe to explore many of life’s ‘what ifs’.

At the time, The Sims’ stellar success was a bit of a wildcard. Was EA caught by surprise?

When creating the original game, no one on the team knew what a phenomenon it was going to be. You can’t predict a phenomenon, but you can hope.

The evolution of The Sims as a larger phenomena has happened gradually over time. I think people are surprised that it grows year over year and gains momentum with each iteration. The Sims owns one of the biggest categories without large competition. I don’t see that interest in people and relationships diminishing, whereas with other games players burn through content.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve made 500 hours of content and gameplay, at some point you are going to burn through it and people will lose interest. With The Sims, because it is the player creativity that drives the interest in the game, it is difficult to imagine that running out. And as the team adds more features to enhance player creativity, they exponentially multiply the opportunities the game provides. 

The Sims has a huge female fanbase. Do you know what the proportion is? Why do you think this is the case?

I think the fact that The Sims is gender balanced is pretty remarkable. The audience for The Sims is almost an even split between males and females. I attribute that to the game’s diversity of activities.

When you talk to boys and how they play The Sims, they love the architecture and constructing cool things, whereas the girls are really focused on social relationships. When you look back at the best movies and books that had a balanced demographic, they had something for everybody and I think The Sims has that quality.

The team also contributed greatly to the gender balance of the game and was extraordinary in a lot of ways. About 40 per cent of the team was female and I’m convinced the only way to attract more female players is to have women be a part of creating the games.

How has the community evolved over the decade?

The Sims community has always been robust, but has grown significantly throughout the past ten years with the addition of improved technology and tools. The Sims exchange, where players can share content, was a big part of The Sims 2. Additionally in The Sims 2, the team offered players more creative tools such as movie making capabilities.

Those continued to expand in The Sims 3 with not only movie capture capabilities but also editing tools. The Sims 3 also introduced ‘Create a Style’, which allows players to truly customise every aspect of their Sims’ appearance, as well as the ‘Create a World’ beta tool.

This means players are able to step into the shoes of the development team and use the same tools that were used to create Sunset Valley. Over the last ten years, content has grown in quality and quantity.

The Sims’ core success is arguably on PC. Why do you think this is?

The PC is a big gaming platform, and where The Sims began. I believe that once you have a hit design on     the PC platform, then its scale is extremely beneficial.

It took several years to get The Sims established on consoles, and took quite a different tack. What was the thinking behind that?

When bringing The Sims to any console platform over the years, we work to ensure the gameplay is going to be new and different, but still fun and true to The Sims experience.

The Sims, at its core, revolves around creativity, humour and community – which is apparent in PC and console iterations – and we strive to continue to have those themes drive the games, regardless of platform.

With The Sims 3 on consoles we’re bringing players the best console and handheld game for The Sims franchise to date.

THE SIMS MAY BE TEN YEARS OLD, BUT HOW WILL IT EVOLVE DURING THE NEXT DECADE? REED ASKS HUMBLE...

Where do you see The Sims brand going over the next few years? What do you have to do to maintain its success?

The team sees The Sims evolving through theme, time and space. We also continue to maintain quality of gameplay as our North Star. The series has already seen a vastly significant evolution over the last decade, what with so many expansions and things like MySims.

Now that consoles are the dominant force in the market, do you foresee a time when a traditional PC-style Sims game will launch simultaneously on console and PC, or will you continue to differentiate between the two audiences and cater to them individually?

I think simultaneous releases are not out of the question. I would note that PC gaming worldwide remains a large force in games, including online.

Now motion controllers are here, it feels like the old control issues are behind us, and that EA can finally bring a 'full fat' PC-style Sims to consoles. Will this happen?

I believe that The Sims 3 for consoles is an incredibly robust game and the best The Sims experience on console to date. The controls feel great as well, although at this time we are not offering Move compatibility.

Will there be further broadening of The Sims? Will we see it on social networking sites like Facebook?

We recently announced that we’re developing The Sims 3 for the 3DS and we look forward to showing the game more over the next several months. We have a wonderful fan following on the official Facebook page for The Sims with over 1.4m fans.

We continue to explore different platforms and spaces for The Sims franchise and will see what the future brings in the social networking space.

After the experience of The Sims Online, are there plans afoot to have another try at it with a new version, perhaps?

For us The Sims community is such a large and powerful force that we are constantly looking at ways to bring greater delight to our audience through social and online features. I certainly do not rule a new purely online experience.

Finally, what is your favourite Sims game and Sims ‘moment’?

The Sims 2 Open for Business expansion pack was easily my favourite expansion, because it was incredibly broad. I remember making a business out of the kids selling their parents’ furniture in a yard sale. That was really fun.

FIVE-SECOND THE SIMS FACTS

16 million – Total worldwide shipments of the original PC game The Sims.

13 million – Global sales of The Sims 2.

125 million – Estimated total franchise sales
of all The Sims games.

A toilet – The first ever object created for The Sims, back in 1993.

5 million
– Sales of The Sims 3 since its
June 2009 launch.

22 – The number of different languages The Sims franchise has been translated into.

1.2 million – Pre-orders of the forthcoming expansion, The Sims 3: World Adventure.

60
– The number of countries The Sims franchise has been shipped to.

5.6 million
– Total sales of The Sims 2: Pets expansion.

20 – The Sims expansion packs released to date.

5 million – The number of visitors the official community website attracts per month.

160 million – The amount of custom
content downloaded from the community website.

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