'Sims 3' ready for prime time

The latest full iteration of the 100 million-plus-selling franchise launches. For Electronic Arts, the stakes are high.

'The Sims 3' launches officially on June 2. Electronic Arts

LOS ANGELES--Start saving simoleans, everyone: "The Sims 3" has finally launched.

The latest full iteration of the famous "Sims" franchise--"The Sims" launched in 2000 and became the best-selling PC game of all time, and "The Sims 2" released in 2004--the new game presents a chance for its publisher, Electronic Arts, to bolster its bottom line, even while trying to push the boundaries of what game players are used to.

The original "Sims," from the hit-making game designer, Will Wright , was a game in which players could control a household of, yes, "sims," little people whose daily lives depended on players' attention. The innovations in the game, plus its non-goal-oriented nature, its unique graphics, its ahead-of-its-time game play and a number of other factors quickly made it into a success far beyond what anyone could have imagined. It also spawned a series of expansions that were also successes.

Then came "Sims 2," which improved upon the original title's graphics, incorporated more user-generated content--players could now use a movie feature that allowed players to script and make films starring their sims, while players of the original version figured out a way to do so themselves using the game's "family album" feature--and also spawned a series of hit expansions.

As a result, EA spun "The Sims" off its original studio, Maxis, and turned it into one of the company's main labels. And now, with the release of "Sims 3," EA has both a chance to prove it can continue to maintain its most popular and lucrative franchises, and to win over a new generation of players unfamiliar with the little green diamond that floats over players' characters' heads.

But EA has had a series of layoffs, its much-anticipated "Spore" franchise, which moderately successful, has not been the mega-hit the company likely hoped it would be and it is facing an environment in which the games industry, while still stronger than most, is finally starting to show some cracks.

So how important is "Sims 3" to EA? Well, it's not bet-the-house important--no game could be to such a large company--but it's certainly got to be up there.

And now, as the latest iteration incorporates even more social media, and more user-generated content--players can now not only make films starring their sims, but can also have full editing control over the footage--EA has to deliver with bottom line figures. Will it? Only time will tell. But there's certainly a lot of excitement around the game. And given the franchise's history, it would be tough to bet against them.

 

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