The Sims™ needs to up its 'game'.
Posted originally on WordPress*
Originally released in 2000 with the ingenious mind of Will Wright (the creator of SimCity), developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts, The Sims pioneered a whole new gaming experience and genre of its own. A platform for players to control their own household, families and neighbourhoods and decide the futures of their Sims – the virtual people in the game. Whether that would be to climb their career ladders, marry and have children or perhaps drown them in the swimming pool or set them on fire. There was a gap in the market for this simulation game of life, no one had thought of it before, and Will Wright acted on that business advantage, from what was initially inspired by a personal need, and turned it into an innovative execution within the gaming world. The Sims is widely known as a high quality, block buster brand, and its instant success celebrated 2.6 million copies sold within its first two years. Now, EA are laughing in their simoleons with 200 million sold. Pretty exciting for an idea that is actually very simple, but no other company had the courage, passion or quite simply the idea to make it what it was going to be. Technology of course was a significant hurdle too. That didn’t stop The Sims. Various platforms. Channels. Marketing techniques. Branding. Celebrity endorsements. Collaborations. In-game characters. Stories with open-ended game-play. Player freedom.
Over the years, The Sims has been a success. However, in recent years, The Sims 4 is losing its innovation; its impact on consumers, and losing long-term customers interest’s and passion. When The Sims first released, the graphics and in-depth content was something to be in awe of. In 2004, The Sims 2 proposed even more modes of playing; story modes, locations, life states, objects, more characters/more of the same characters, which built both an emotional and relational value for consumers to believe in and thus invest in. All the games in between each expansion pack added to the niche markets for different consoles, and this gained popularity and sales for the main game on PC. The Sims 3 added more content and an open world on a fast-paced scale, aiming to satisfy customers demand with their continually soaring expectations of quantity, and also a growing instantaneous culture; the needs of the sims in-game were depleting slower, but consumers needs had to be fulfilled much quicker. With this, severe performance issues and the functionality on the everyday person’s computer proved to be a massive consequence. Therefore, The Sims 4 took into consideration of their past objectives and actions, and created something that is accessible for a wider demographic; works well on higher budget computers, but also adaptable for lower performance computer’s, not to mention consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox, and now online playing with mobile apps to fit the digital world of today. However, a smaller universe, less characters, less context, story, and history within the game are the results of focusing on performance, especially when the quality of graphics has to be kept up to date with the modern world of technology. The Sims 4 has just released its 8th game pack, along with its 15 stuff packs, and 7 expansion packs (expansions being larger content add-ons, game packs being the middle, and stuff packs being the lowest amount of added content.) Consumers are vocal on social media about how much content is actually included in these packs, and the repetition of past themes such as pets, seasons, and the supernatural. It is argued that these are regurgitated from predecessors and churned into packs that merely uses more up-to-date graphics with little creativity from its creators, and an enormous amount of content missing. Recent games to the franchise have been arguably underwhelming. Many costumers argue that The Sims, as a brand, are only focusing on profit, sales and revenue and less on the organic experience that is very much alive in past games. The vital deep thought that goes into making The Sims games are perhaps missing with what now is an essence that feels like a robot is throwing out half-hearted, quick games that are convenient for a culture of mass production. Maybe The Sims is becoming complacent. The Sims needs a competitor. The Sims has been winning in its own lane for almost 20 years. It controls its own universe, much like the in-game’s objective. When you look at other industries, like automobiles for example, there is BMW, Aston Martin and Mercedes to name only but a few, and they compete with each other. Even looking into the gaming industry itself and you have Call of Duty and Battlefield, Fifa and Pro Evolution Soccer, Grand Turismo and Forza. Competition in industries strives organisations to not only be strategic, but to be simply better. To act on advantages, or create them. Consequently, this impacts on the quality of the industry. But The Sims has never had to worry about rival games and the market environment, or to even focus on advantages because they are the only ones in their field and genre. They have always been market leaders, they have never had to worry about substitute brands, and therefore have become complacent. But they do have to listen to customers and take into consideration of the consumer; customer loyalty and lifetime value, and satisfying customers needs if they not only want to sell, but to create great games. The Sims community is long-standing, with a lot of history, not to mention loyal, and they make a lot of noise. It is hopeful that it can push The Sims to become inspiring and fresh again. Re-branding the Sims 4 on its loading screen and game covers is not going to dilute that noise or the needs of the consumers, major operational decisions will. And that is urgent. A competitor will come along; its not if, its when. There is talk of one in production. And that might just knock that ‘Plumbob’ on its head. Or may force The Sims to simply get better. The Sims is an extraordinary universe, with many aspects that fans and consumers alike relish. EA if you listen to your primary target audience, you might just save The Sims, and make your customers happy with their needs fulfilled again. – A Digital and Social Media Marketing masters student, but also a devoted Sims fan since 2000. * Please note that since this post there have been more releases of stuff and game packs and an expansion pack, ‘Discover University’ that fans have anticipated since Sims 4 was first released. Additionally, the Star Wars stuff pack 'Journey to Batuu' has been released resulting in many fans expressing their anger of The Sims not listening to what consumers want, and perhaps focusing on profit rather than appropriate content and satisfying customer needs.
EDIT: Paralives is an upcoming simulation game that is a well-anticipated competitor for the sims. Being niche and a new entry to the market means for a lesser reach but it also means for new content and something significant for EA to wake up to and get their act together.