When it comes to Facebook and the social gaming sphere there is no contender as heavyweight as Zynga—the game publisher best known for Farmville and all its strange descendants—but other developers believe that growing crops and petting cows might be too staid an activity for the hip Facebooker. Enter Electronic Arts and they’re über-famous social-simulation title, The Sims.
During Electronic Art’s press feature at E3 2011, they revealed their intent to enter the realm of social media by hitching The Sims to Facebook’s wagon in a way they haven’t tried before—by giving players the option to intermingle the two experiences together. In a fashion that they suggested would be superior to the Zynga Farmville experience (as it would involve running around town and not hoeing a row).
CNET’s Jay Greene brings us a brief review of what’s known about the game from it’s display at E3 2011,
Gamers can only play with people who they’ve friended over Facebook. The video goes on to encourage folks to play with BFFs, co-workers, hotties, and a host of other suggestions. Little exists on The Sims Social Facebook page now, other than a “Coming Soon” label and a brief description of what players can expect.
“Create unique Sims and live out their dreams–or stir up trouble by pulling pranks. Develop deep relationships to unlock new features and advance: befriend and fight, date and cheat, love and betray,” EA says on the site.
Right now, future players can “like” the site, and more than 86,000 have done so already. And liking the site unlocks items that can be used in the game. A barbeque grill and an electric keyboard, for example, have already been unlocked. When The Sims Social gets 1 million likes, a bathtub will be unlocked.
I watched the video at EA’s panel as well, but it didn’t seem all that impressive.
They played out the usual narrative about two women chatting it up on Facebook about a real-world relationship (although it’s hard to tell in this case) that gets taken into The Sims game terms. The conversation plays itself out like a gossip session between friends, spliced together with game footage—all of that involves inviting a guy over to her Sim house, watching movies, kissing in the bedroom, and jumping in the shower together.
For anyone who has played The Sims before none of this is really that new.
In fact, there’s been a The Sims MMO out for some time now: The Sims Online.
Hooking this up to Facebook (or at least allowing people currently engaged in Facebook to hop out into The Sims) might give a boost to the player-base available to the game, but it doesn’t really change the experience as much as EA might want it to. Details on exactly how this game works are sketchy. Will it be free-to-play? Do you have to buy the box and install the application? Does it run like a Flash application inside Facebook or does it just integrate.
If it’s not a Flash game that runs in the browser, it’s certainly not going to get as much traction as Zynga has managed with their franchises.
Of course, EA might be looking into the realm of mobile gaming as well. The Sims certainly could benefit hugely with a mobile window via social networking into the MMO aspects of their games. More and more people use MMO virtual worlds to interact with friends (and even Microsoft and consoles are starting to get into this) such that being away from the computer/console they don’t want to be separated for too long. Tablets and smartphones galore will begin to fill out the away-from-game portion of following friends’ exploits in the virtual world.
According to the stats, The Sims happens to be one of the longest and most enduring gaming franchises. It appeared on the radar in February 2000, has managed to captivate audiences and sell over 125 million units of its various titles, made a debut translated into 22 languages, and has been sold in over 60 countries. The Sims 3 sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
As a property, EA has an extremely broad foundation to build on.
Perhaps Zynga should prepare itself for a fight.