PCR looks at the history of the best-selling people simulation series, and finds out why the The Sims should find a home in your store…
The first ‘The Sims’ title launched in 2000, designed by the creator of SimCity, Will Wright, at developer Maxis and published by EA.
The PC exclusive game was an immediate smash-hit, topping charts worldwide and becoming the top-selling PC game in history by 2002, with over 11.3 million copies shifted. By 2005, over 16 million copies had been sold.
The quirky life simulator was notable for many things, including the garbled ‘Simlish’ speech of its eponymous virtual inhabitants and the ahead-of-its-time artificial intelligence, but for retailers the game provided one particularly notable trait.
Over 60 per cent of The Sims players were female, dismissing the commonly held notion that video games were a ‘boy’s only’ club.
For retailers stocking the game, The Sims was a brand new avenue into the female gamer demographic – one which had been notoriously difficult to traverse with games of the past.
Following its runaway success on PC, the game made its console debut on PS2, Xbox and GameCube in 2003, accompanied by seven expansion packs and numerous bundles and collector’s editions.
A sequel – The Sims 2 – soon followed in 2004, replicating its predecessor’s record-breaking popularity. The Sims 2 sold over one million copies in its first 10 days – a record at the time – and, like The Sims, became one of the biggest-selling PC games of all time.
The Sims 2 built upon The Sims’ expansion packs, adding new ‘Stuff’ packs which provided item-only bundles of add-on content.
Eight full-bodied expansion packs and 10 Stuff titles were released following The Sims 2’s release, providing plenty of extra opportunities for retailers stocking the game.
On May 25th 2007, it was announced that the film rights to The Sims had been purchased by 20th Century Fox, with writer Brian Lynch (Angel: After The Fall) and producer John Davis (Norbit, Eragon) attached to the project. At the time of writing, the movie is still in pre-production – reportedly stuck in ‘development limbo’.
The Sims 3 continued the franchise’s unbroken success in 2009, selling over 10 million copies and providing 20 expansion and Stuff packs for retailers to score return purchases.
The series has now reached over $2.5 billion (£1.47bn) in revenues, with over 175 million Sims games sold by the beginning of 2014.
The next installment in the franchise, due this September, looks set to continue the strong performance of The Sims, adding brand new emotional and personality-based behaviours to the computer characters – even allowing particularly emotional Sims to meet their maker by literally dying of laughter.
Other improvements include refinements to the ‘Create a Sim’ creation tool, which will allow PC players to modify their Sims by clicking and dragging body parts. Voice, walking style and fashion preferences have also been added.
The building creation tool has also been improved, adding the ability to place and edit predesigned rooms, modify building foundations, place windows simultaneously and move entire buildings after completion.
The game will also integrate user-created content more closely into the game, with an in-game online store for users to share their content through.
As well as the boxed standard, limited, collector’s and premium editions of the game, retailers should also be considering stocking themed peripherals and products surrounding the game.
SteelSeries and EA have announced a range of themed peripherals to promote the game, including an illuminated mouse that glows to represent Sims’ in-game emotional states, a pair of headphones and an accompanying mousepad emblazoned with Sims artwork.
While the Sims may be virtual, their success is real. The long-running series has proved its popularity among gamers of every demographic, continues to generate multiple retail opportunities from hardware to software, and shows little sign of slowing yet.
Should you be stocking the next title in the franchise? This year, the choice is Simple.