Looking back at… The Sims franchise

The Sims, brain child of Sim City creator Will Wright and arguably one of the popular video games of the 21st Century. Despite initially being dreamt up by Wright back in 1993, it wasn’t released until the turn of the millennium after being developed by Wright and his software development company Maxis within a year of the company’s acquisition by Electronic Arts (EA). The game was developed as a first person simulator that allows players to control simulated humans in a virtual dollhouse deciding their actions, influencing their wants and desires and balancing their basic needs. It was an idea was initially unpopular with the EA old guard but Luc Barthelet who became EA’s Maxis General Manager championed the project and helped Wright get the funding and support he needed to develop the game.

In 2000 the game was released to very little fanfare and was even victim to a few early negative reviews but within a year the game was a massive success fulfilling all the ambitions Wright and Maxis had for the game quickly surpassing the sales achieved by Sim City.

The overwhelming popularity of the game inspired Maxis to work on expansions packs for the game, a concept that at the time was practically unheard of. Wright worked on the first expansion Livin’ Large but then turned his focus to the shortlived The Sims Online. A further 6 expansion packs were released over a 3 year period culminating in Makin’ Magic. Each expansion pack was themed and added new objects, outfits, careers and even new neighbourhoods.

Despite initially arguing against the idea of expansion packs, much preferring resources be invested in the online platform, Wright later admitted it was a fantastic model for the franchise which extends out the life of the base game.

The success of the PC game also led to console versions of the game that was considerably more objective and mission based and also first introduced the three-dimensional camera and environment. There was a free roam mode called “Play the Sims” included but the appeal of the console games were the achievement modes that the original PC game doesn’t feature.

In 2004 the franchise was taken to the next level by Sims 2 which sold one million copies within 10 days. The major improvement was the inclusion of the 3D free-roaming camera and the improved graphics as well as refining the original game play and the inclusion of life cycles that has become a major feature of all future games. The base game spawned seven expansions most notably University, Open For Business and Apartment Life that all treaded new ground for the franchise. The sequel also partnered up with well known brands such as H&M and Ikea to create Stuff Packs that added even more outfits and objects to the game.

2009 brought about the biggest changes the game has seen to date! Gone were the restrictive neighbourhoods and in came open worlds in the franchise’s third instalment Sims 3. Also the point based personality system was given the boot replaced self descriptive traits that influence a Sim’s behaviour. Finally textures and objects became more customisable with the introduction of an in-game texture compositor called “Create A Style” (CAST). More expansion and stuff packs than ever before went on sale, eleven and seven respectively. Magic made a much anticipated return in Supernatural while Into The Future was the game’s most unique expansion that allowed Sim’s to travel into the future!

The forth iteration of the franchise was launched in 2014 with major overhauls to a number of areas including the Create-a-Sim and Build modes. To date there are only three expansion packs available with a new one, Cats & Dogs going on sale from November 10th meaning they’ve only released one expansion every year since the release of the base game. To bridge the gaps they have released Stuff Packs and new Game Packs which adds new themed content and game play.

The franchise regularly features on “Best Selling PC Games” lists and “Best Selling Game Franchises” lists and EA has sold between 175-200 million copies since 2000.

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