E3 2011: The Sims Social to offer Facebook flirting

The venerable gaming franchise will come to Facebook this summer with a game that encourages friends to hook up with one another.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
3 min read

Electronic Arts is hoping to convince folks to covet thy neighbor's wife. Or that co-worker you've always lunched with. Or your college sweetheart.

Virtually, of course.

At E3, a show that caters to hardcore gamers who stand in long lines to get the first chance to play soon-to-be-released action titles, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Assassins Creed: Revelations, EA's new title in The Sims franchise has gone a bit below the radar. But The Sims Social, which will launch this summer on Facebook in five languages, would seem to have all the prurient trappings to turn it into another hit for the franchise.

A couple from The Sims Social video Jay Greene/CNET

It's a game, like Zynga's Farmville, that encourages Facebook friends to play alongside one another. But rather than growing crops, EA seems to be encouraging friends to hook up. It's not really clear, though, because EA isn't talking much about the game, hoping teasing the game will create enough buzz.

"Lots of questions, but there's not a lot of information about the game," said Robert Lamvik, who works in the marketing department at EA. All Lamvik would offer is a canned marketing line about being excited that "the world's largest PC franchise is combining with the world's largest social network."

But a video trailer of the game hints at what's in store. It starts with Facebook messages between two women, noting that a certain guy's status has gone from "in a relationship" to "single."

"OMG!! They finally broke up!" one woman notes. And then she invites him to join her in The Sims Social. They dance, virtually. He prepares virtual tapas for her. They even watch a romantic film, holding virtual hands. "DID YOU KISS????" the woman's friend asks over Facebook.

That, and much more. The Sims Social couple moves into a bedroom to neck. Then, they strip down to their skivvies and jump in the shower together. Hearts float up from the shower and a "woohoo" can be heard, presumably from behind the shower curtain.

"Where can I find a man like that?" the Facebook friend asks.

The answer is, of course, The Sims Social.

In a press release, the company says that gamers can "engage with every aspect of their Sim's social lives from the intense emotion of a first kiss to the flawless execution of a hilarious prank." They can even "pee on a neighbor's lawn."

"The game is alive, brimming with the humor, romance, mischief and creativity that only The Sims can provide," Jeff Karp, executive vice president of Play Label at EA, said in a press release.

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.

The Sims remains one of the most enduring franchises in gaming. Launched in February 2000, the various versions have sold more than 125 million units, been translated into 22 different languages, and are for sale in 60 countries. The Sims 3 launched two years ago and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.

If The Sims Social takes off as Farmville did, EA bosses may be shouting "woohoo" behind closed doors too.