EA is getting ready to unleash the latest version of The Sims into retail.
And if you have seen the boxed PC games charts at any point in the last five years, you will have likely noticed how The Sims 3 and the huge number of expansion packs launched in the wake of its 2009 launch have consistently dominated the rankings.
For example, in the boxed budget PC chart for the week ending August 9th 2014, nine of the Top 20 games are part of The Sims 3 family of products.
It might seem strange that a particular series – especially one now half a decade old – rules the roost to quite the degree that The Sims does, but EA is hoping to replicate the same success with the newest entry, The Sims 4, when it lands on shelves in a matter of weeks.
PC games have moved primarily to a digitally-delivered model. Yet EA believes The Sims’ younger and broader audience has kept the brand successful on the High Street.
“Physical products are still very important to our consumers and are to us too – a majority of The Sims consumers still purchase physical items due to their age,” explains Jacqui Ashworth, senior product manager for The Sims.
“Our core fans still like to own physical products, and The Sims is great for gifting, which makes grocery a good channel of distribution. Also, the current average age of the standard The Sims 3 player means they don’t have access to credit cards or online accounts so a physical purchase is preferred.
“We’ve always worked hard to maintain our presence at retail and we do not see this changing anytime in the near future.”
And – strange as it might seem – Ashworth believes that owning a boxed copy of a The Sims title
is actually a highly desirable pursuit for some fans.
“Our players like to own physical content – especially our core fans,” Ashworth says. “They see their boxes as badges of honour in the Sims community and often will share pictures of the games they own across our community channels.”
Of course, since The Sims 3 launched back in 2009 the retail landscape has changed dramatically. While brick and mortar stores were previously the primary source for purchasing video games, now consumers have more options than ever to buy their games.
As a result, boxed game sales have declined. And PC titles have been disappearing from the High Street. But EA believes it has the solutions necessary to keep The Sims front-of-house at retailers.
We’ve always worked hard to maintain our
presence at retail and we do not see this changing
anytime in the near future.
Jacqui Ashworth, EA
“The PC retail space has declined in recent years, making way for next-generation products,” Ashworth says.
“We’ve been working hard to come up with merchandising solutions for The Sims products, including point of sale activation (POSA) cards, which take into account this decline in space but still provide a destination for The Sims franchise – educating and exciting both prospective and current The Sims gamers.”
This choice echoes The Sims Studio producer Ryan Vaughan’s sentiment earlier in the month about giving consumers a variety of options for purchasing The Sims.
“We absolutely value retail,” he said. “Our retail and combined digital sales are very important.
“We want to give people the ability to buy the game how they see fit, whether it’s through Origin and other online retailers, or in a brick and mortar store.”
Ashworth adds that although sales of The Sims 3 and its expansions have somewhat declined over the course of the last five years, the most recent additions to the series have continued to impress players.
“Like any product, as the lifecycle comes to an end, we’ve seen a natural decline in sales for The Sims 3,” she says. “However, our last expansion packs – Seasons, Island Paradise and University Life – have all enjoyed solid sales since their release as the themes resonate well with our Sims community.”
SIMS 4 THE FANS
Since 2009, there has been a shift in where people are playing games – gamers are increasingly going to mobile, tablet and social games over traditional boxed products. So what is EA doing to ensure its fanbase comes back for The Sims 4?
“The Sims 4 has many features which is going to make the barriers to play this game very low,” explains Ashworth. “Our new tools to create Sims and the worlds they live in are easy and intuitive, even if you have never played before. We are opening up the Create-a-Sim tool to everyone from August 13th so gamers will get a chance to have a go at these tools.
“In terms of gameplay, we can confidently say this is going to be the most true life simulation game on the market. Also, our sharing tools and gallery, which are hugely important to our target demographic, are exceptional and will allow more content to be shared and celebrated.”
She concludes: “The result is a very rounded game, which you can play at depth or leisurely create and share - making it a good edition to anyone’s collection come September 5th.”
SIMS IN STORES
EA is unsurprisingly backing The Sims 4 with a huge marketing campaign. This will involve a heavy focus on in-store promotion, taking the form of point of sale ads, and demonstrations so that hardcore Sims fans can try a slice of the game ahead of launch.
“Our focus is certainly to bring this game to a more mainstream audience – obviously our core fans are eagerly anticipating the release, and we hope to encourage our lapsed fans back into the franchise,” explains Jacqui Ashworth, senior product manager for the series.
“We know from our research that this game will appeal to an older audience than our current Sims players. Hit buyers will want this game at launch. In-store, we’ve got a suite of impactful point of sale and have armed our merchandising team with the Create-a-Sim demo to talk to store managers about the product. It’s a great tool for showing how easy and fun it is to create Sims.
“We have an enormous amount of really engaging videos coming out in our campaign in the next six weeks until launch, and we’ll make sure stores that are equipped for these assets will receive them.“