The Sims 4 and Holding Back Content in Gaming
Why is there controversy surrounding The Sims 4?
When it comes to video games, holding back content can be both good and bad for developers and consumers alike. In the past, buying a game meant you now had the right to play all of its content and there was a general assumption that everything the game promised would be contained within said disc or cartridge. Nowadays however, things have changed considerably. With the advent of online gaming, DLC has become commonplace, sometimes with the data for the DLC being held on the disc itself but only becoming available if you pay the extra cash. On other occasions the content is simply not good enough and is axed early on by developers. The main reason for this article is the recent backlash surrounding the release of The Sims 4.
First of all, a bit of context. The Sims 4 has now released in most territories and there is a lot of discussion over its design, its business model and indeed its content. The backlash stems from the items, features and core gameplay elements that are not in The Sims 4 but have been in previous The Sims titles. Publisher EA and developer Maxis are well-known for bringing later content in the form of expansion packs to fans of the series, offering new items, locations and gameplay. On the surface, the game looks a step forward, there are new animations, a graphical overhaul and a new emotion system for your Sims. Some may say that the developer should be excused for missing a few items from the new game if it meant substantial change to how The Sims played. Nevertheless, the true extent of the omission becomes apparent when you look closer. Here is a link to the list of missing features:
The list contains 89 features and items that were featured in previous titles at some stage. These include toddlers, swimming pools and the re-addition of loading screens within neighborhoods to name a few. This has led to a backlash because many fans believe much of this content may come to the game eventually, but in the form of later paid expansions. There were a few signs that the game may not be well received with no early copies sent out to the media for review purposes (fairly unusual for a high-profile title such as The Sims) and the game currently holds an average user score of 3.9 on Metacritic. Indeed, the fan response has been for the most part negative and has reminded some of the backlash against the release of EA’s SimCity in 2013.
There are a number of points to consider here and certainly lessons to be learned. Firstly, some people have criticized The Sims franchise in the past for its business model of paid expansions, some of which just contain a selection of new items. The paid expansion model can work well, but if a developer puts content into the expansions which was featured in the previous iteration’s base game, something has gone wrong and should be brought attention to. The Sims 3 did this with a couple of items but nowhere near on the scale that The Sims 4 appears to be doing. Secondly, some of the developers of The Sims 4 have defended the release of the game citing the focus on major upgrades to the core game as the reason for the omission of smaller, less significant content. However, if a game needs more time to be its absolute best, should it not be given that time? The Sims 4 appears to have been made for a deadline, and going on the fan response, it shows.
There are occasions when holding back content is the right decision. There are many examples of gameplay or missions that would have been better off left out of the final product across many different titles and genres. Having said that, this does not seem like one of those occasions. The Sims franchise is well-known for its player freedom, allowing you to create your own virtual family and world and play it however you see fit. But The Sims 4 seems like a step backwards, leaving out content that fans have come to expect form the series. This story shows that consumers won’t be fooled by holding back content for the wrong reasons. Having played The Sims 3 and many of its expansions myself, I know that I won’t be purchasing The Sims 4 anytime soon.
These are my thoughts on the backlash surrounding The Sims 4 and holding back content generally. But what do you think? Have you played The Sims 4? Do you think EA and Maxis made the wrong choices when making this game?
Let me know in the comments at the bottom of the page and thanks for reading!