Tag Archives | The Sims

Despite Piracy, The Sims 3’s Doing Fine

Given the chance, the games industry will whine ad nauseum about the evils of software piracy, but the recent success of The Sims 3 shows that illegal downloading isn’t necessarily bad for business.

Electronic Arts is boasting that The Sims 3 is a hit, with 1.4 million units sold in the first week alone. That’s the biggest PC game launch in EA’s history.

The company doesn’t break from its victory cry to acknowledge that 180,000 people illegally downloaded The Sims 3 a few weeks ago, after it leaked to BitTorrent sites. The piracy statistics, cited by Bloomberg, come from BigChampagne, a company that monitors file sharing. I’ve contacted the company in search of up-to-date statistics. (Got ’em. See below.)

Even if illegal downloads of the game increased significantly since the end of May, it hardly seems that the leak dampened legitimate sales.

Why not? There are a couple possible explanations. First, there’s no demo for The Sims 3, so piracy could in some cases amount to taking the game for a test drive. Pair this with EA’s claims to Bloomberg that the leak is a “buggy, pre-final build” of the game, and there’s even more reason for downloaders to get the real thing. Also, there will always be a group of people who don’t want or can’t afford to pay for the game anyway. Neither of these scenarios can be justified legally, but they also don’t support the tired claim that every pirated download constitutes a lost sale.

And isn’t BitTorrent somewhat of  a niche anyway? The Sims 3’s appeal expands far beyond the tech-savvy Internet users who know their cracking software, and its online community features make a legitimate copy preferable.

I understand the games industry’s plight. It’s a shame that not everyone pays for their PC games, when legally they should. But perhaps instead of complaining that people aren’t buying software, publishers should study the people that do and look at why The Sims 3 earned their $50.

Update: Just got the latest stats from BigChampagne. The Sims 3, the leaked version, has been downloaded more than 700,000 times per week over the last few weeks, totalling 2.21 million downloads as of June 9.

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Is EA Trying to Sims-ify Spore?

Spore BoxMy, how Spore is multiplying.

When the much-hyped evolution sim was released in September, along with it came Spore Creatures for the Nintendo DS and Spore Origins for mobile phones. In November, we got the Spore Creepy & Cute Parts Pack — basically a cache of extra appendages to tinker with — and come springtime we’ll get a full expansion in Spore: Galactic Adventures.

But wait, there’s more.

Yesterday, Electronic Arts confirmed Spore Hero for the Wii and Spore Hero Arena for the DS, plus a PC spin-off called Spore Creature Keeper. If you lost count, that’s seven additional Spore games, spin-offs and expansions to hit shelves within more or less a year of the original game’s release.

It occurs to me that EA is trying to “Sims-ify” Spore — i.e., turn it into a massive brand that can be continually milked for more revenue. This isn’t a major revelation, given that the guy behind Spore, Will Wright, also created the Sims, and that the franchise has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. Still, this time around it seems forced.

Wikipedia, of all places, gives a nice, scanable overview of how the Sims brand was distributed over time. It started with the main game in January 2000, followed by the “Livin’ Large” expansion pack in August 2000. The next add-on didn’t come until April 2001, and after that it was a steady stream of roughly bi-annual expansions. The official sequel came in 2004, and a third title is coming this year.

The current cycle with Spore seems to be moving faster. Granted, that’s because the approach is different, with EA immediately expanding the brand beyond the PC, but I wonder how effective that will be for Wii and DS owners who haven’t played the main game. Even if you are a big Spore fan and are willing to enjoy the franchise across multiple platforms, all these auxiliary releases — so soon from the original launch date — must feel like an overload.

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