Sometime during the summer of 2009 I remember trudging the Sims 3 official forums out of morbid curiosity. The game had just been released and, in between bouts of QQ and people realizing for the first time that the computer they had been using in 1999 might not actually do the trick anymore for newer titles (and QQing about that, too), there was a little bit of discussion going on. For the first time in the Sims series there was a store filled with downloadable content available on release (a rant for another day, that one). Oh yes, the Sims 2 had a store near the end of its expansion cycle that sold furniture and the like that I don’t actually recall hearing about anyone ever actually buying from. But this was different. The Sims 3 base game had been designed with this content store in mind.
People wondered what this might mean? Would the sets of furniture and individual items available on the Sims 3 store replace Stuff Packs, $20 sets of items and build mode options, (hint: they didn’t). What about expansion content? Would that be distributed on the store from then on (it wasn’t). The Sims 3 store content was just… stuff. Similar to the kind of stuff you could download at any old third party custom content site for free, except not for free. With the store they managed to implement the accessibility and convenience of near-instantly downloading new game content with the overcharging of Electronic Arts’ standard practices. No surprise there.
But quite frankly that’s a bit disappointing. One thread on the official forum around that time posed the idea that maybe the store would be used to distribute actual gameplay content (it wasn’t) and that maybe, with the ease of being able to just download what you wanted when you wanted it. Maybe this new store would come with smaller, cheaper content packs now that the price of getting things onto a disc and into a shop wouldn’t be an issue anymore.
One poster used a hypothetical (at the time) pets expansion as an example, citing that he did not like cats but would have loved to have dogs in his game. He said that he would like to only buy part of an expansion via the store. Only dogs, no cats included.
It seems like EA listened, because several days ago a new “gameplay pack” was announced for the Sims 4. These new kinds of packs are supposed to come in between Stuff Packs and Expansions in terms of content and price and will only be available for download via the Origin store and wont be sold in stores (at least for the present). The content of this new pack doesn’t really matter for the sake of this post, but it’s a holiday pack about camping, so roughly 1/3rd of the theme of The Sims 2: Bon Voyage and The Sims: Vacation. And the whole thing should come in at $20, half the price of a Sims 3 expansion.
With this new model, EA doesn’t promise to get rid of any of the existing kinds of content packs available, even though Stuff Packs are really, really redundant by now. But this kind of makes me wonder who this is really good for.
Your average holiday/vacation themed expansion pack (Vacation, Bon Voyage and World Adventures) came with three destinations that each had a distinct theme. If EA releases two more getaway themed game packs that would leave Sims 4 players with a choice of three holiday destinations, as many as full expansions had in the past. However, at each GP costing $20 the total price of those three destinations would come to $60, compared to the $40 of The Sims 3: World Adventures, the most recent expansion included in the list above.
This is an awful lot of speculation based on past habits, but the direction that the Sims series has taken does like to follow certain patterns.
So who is this model best for?
EA of course, which is a given. And definitely for people like that poster in the Sims 3 forums thread way back in 2009. As an aside, I fondly remember a thread on a separate forum once asking how to completely turn off the weather affects that were a part of Sims 2: Seasons. When asked why one would want to keep an expansion pack installed if they didn’t like the content of it, she responded something along the lines of “I bought the expansion because I liked everything else in it, just not the weather”. I’m sure people like that would love the concept of even more modular content release.
But, for people like me, completionists, collectors, etc., this might not be such a good thing. It’s a lot more money to buy content that might have been much cheaper if packaged together.
Oh well, speculationrant over. Everyone go home.