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The Sims Turns 20

The iconic game franchise reaches a milestone.

By Saelanna Wed 05 Feb, 2020 12:21 PM
It is surprising to consider that one of the best-selling PC franchises of all time, The Sims, nearly wasn’t made. In an interview with Retro Gamer, the brains behind the franchise Will Wright, has revealed some of the behind the scenes struggles he faced when developing the original game which hit our PCs 20 years ago this month. So how did a game where the player controls a household of virtual people come to be?

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Poolside fun!
According to Wright the original concept for the game was an architectural version of SimCity where the “Sims” were simply a means to score the buildings designed by the player. Creating these tiny people took about two years and, in the meantime, SimCity would become a huge success. This gave Maxis room to manoeuvre financially and resulted in content creators being given more freedom to work on projects that might never have happened otherwise. For Will Wright this would end up being The Sims as he came to realise that controlling these tiny people he had created was more fun than creating the buildings they’d been designed to score.

Maxis still needed a lot of convincing, however, as executives at the company couldn’t see the appeal of a game where you were directing little people to do everyday tasks like clean the bathroom or go to bed, when other projects in the works would give players the ability to do things out of the ordinary, like fly a jet plane. During a focus group in 1993 the concept of The Sims was pitched to the executives at Maxis alongside some other titles in development at the time. The Sims “totally bombed in the focus group” with most of the other people there saying they hated the idea and they would never play it.

Wright was determined to continue despite the setback and, alongside a team of four programmers, continued to work on The Sims as a side project. He believed in the concept and set about creating the early stages of the simulation; stating that “it’s hard to envision something like The Sims when you can’t play it and you can’t see it”. He found it difficult to sell the idea to Maxis because, although he had a clear vision of the project in his minds eye, it was very difficult to pitch his ideas in a way that would appeal to the money men looking to turn a profit from the title.

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A nice drink!
In 1997, Maxis was bought by Electronic Arts who were more receptive to the idea; the original version of The Sims was released in February 2000 and within two years it had sold over 11 million copies. It was perhaps most notable for its ability to attract people who weren’t otherwise interested in computer games. Mums and sisters were trying out games for the first time, an unusual occurrence in an industry that was principally the fiefdom of adolescent boys. The game hasn’t been allowed to stagnate either; with seven expansion packs, two deluxe editions and three sequels, each with its own series of expansions, the developers have given their loyal Sims fan base plenty to keep them interested. Worldwide, the franchise is estimated to have surpassed $5 billion in sales over the last 20 years. It has long been speculated that the “The Sims 5” is being developed and, while little is known about the project, one thing is for certain; the foundations laid by Will Wright all those years ago have an everlasting appeal that is unlikely to disappear.

What did you think of this article? Have you played any of the Sims games in the past? Let us know!

(Sims Images kindly provided by Saelanna)

EDITED BY Infinity
Wed 05 Feb, 2020 5:10 PM
I have to admit that I never played the game
Wed 05 Feb, 2020 5:11 PM
I've played the odd sims game except for 2, and they are quite fun at times. It's hard to believe they're 20 years old though but it shows they have some lasting value.

If only the DLC weren't so expensive and numerous haha.

Great article Saelanna
Wed 05 Feb, 2020 7:55 PM
I remember buying the first one at release. At the time it was something new, and being such a fan of Sim City, I was a Maxis fan anyways. Wasn't to happy when EA got involved.
Thu 06 Feb, 2020 5:54 PM
It is fun to play... I know EA often rehashes them with a new number and spits out the same type of content... but still fun nonetheless. I have all of The Sims 3, I plan to keep playing that until they're done spitting out Sims 4 crap and move to Sims 5, then I'll get all the Sims 4 stuff.. lol.. but I have played all the previous ones including the original 1.0v hahaha... still doesn't get old when the Sim catches fire miraculously from the stove though and doesn't know what the heck to do but wave their arms, huddle and then turn into an 'urn'... then your house is haunted... xD
Thu 06 Feb, 2020 6:32 PM
Would love a new Sim City game as well
Thu 06 Feb, 2020 6:37 PM
Would love a new Sim City game as well
That's a whole different story, and one of the favorite games at the time it was launched,
Thu 06 Feb, 2020 6:55 PM
I hated SimCity 4. Breaking the cities into smaller suburbs was awful.
Thu 06 Feb, 2020 9:19 PM
I played the SIMS mobile game and Sims 2... Got Sims 2 from a friend- she played it and handed me over when we were in the 6th grade
Mon 10 Feb, 2020 3:13 PM
Sims 4 Standard Edition is free on Origin. this is a limited time offer for the 20th Anniversary: