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The Sims celebrates its 20th anniversary, shows no sign of slowing down

It’s not easy for a game franchise to live on for 20 years. Rarer still for a series to be going strong. Yet The Sims is at the top of its game as it celebrates two decades under its belt.

The Sims came out on February 4, 2000, and in its current iteration, The Sims 4, the series continues to pull in significant player traffic and revenue for its publisher, Electronic Arts. Even as fans hope for The Sims 5, the team is perfecting the current game, which came out in 2014, with regular updates and new DLC.

“There is a lot left to do. It’s pretty funny, because our fans are always like,” It’s going on its sixth year, surely you’re done,” and we’re like, “Nope!” EA Senior Producer Grant Rodiek, who’s worked on The Sims since 2005, says.

That success can be attributed to the game’s active community, which continues to grow and passed 20 million lifetime global players ahead of The Sims 20th anniversary milestone. EA says The Sims 4 passed $1 billion in lifetime revenue in the company’s last financial year.

Impressive numbers aside, The Sims 4 team continues to surprise fans 20 years on by looking beyond its history. The latest Stuff Pack, a bite-sized DLC sold for $10, let players make trendy tiny homes. Another recent free update added The Child statue, a sculpture of the beloved Baby Yoda.

To be sure, the game has suffered some missteps. The launch fell just short of a disaster with key gameplay components, including pools, the toddler life stage, and ghosts, missing.

“When you look at those first several months, we basically put our nose to the grindstone we released a ton of updates and patches, a lot of free content,” Rodiek says.

The team at EA studio Maxis, which created the series, offered each of those missing pieces in time. Fans eventually came around, albeit with some expected grumbling.

The issue proved The Sims’ resilience, far more than a cheap trick like the swift removal of a ladder from a pool. In early versions of The Sims 4, removing the ladder meant Sims could never leave the pool and, eventually, died.

Therein lies the appeal. Somehow, the ladderless pool remains a cultural mainstay in The Sims 4 community, though Sims have since gained the ability to simply climb out of pools. The games are well-known, even among those who don’t play them.

“It’s one of the few games that is truly about choice, where you can do a lot of things that you think in your head, and you can actually do them,” Rodiek says. “It’s a game about creative expression, creativity.”

It’s easy to write this off as self-absorption, with players making virtual versions of themselves, but that wouldn’t explain the requests Rodiek gets to design things like more immersive public bathrooms. It also can’t account for players sticking with the game for years, leading to hours of game time, and endless replays.

It’s important to note that, beyond the rarity of having a hit 20 years after launch,  The Sims remains a singular franchise. It popularized the life simulation genre and spawned side games and mobile apps, yet it remains the king of the genre. No one has managed to lure the game’s fans away.

“It’s a really fun job. It’s very unique. It’s a weird game,” Rodiek says. “We have a very unique and passionate audience, and I’m just very thankful that I don’t have to do something else.”

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