Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) released it latest Sims video game, The Sims 4, for pre-loading through Origin at midnight September 1. It also released the first patch when the game was released in the United States at midnight on September 2. This is the first new version of the game in nearly five years.
One interesting fix is that it is no longer possible for a player to marry the Grim Reaper. When someone tried to do that in the past, the game hung up. Who’d have guessed that?
The instant patch is interesting, but perhaps even more interesting is the audience for the game. According to the game’s publisher, 65% of the audience for the Sims series is women. So how many copies can EA expect to sell?
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The company said it has sold 175 million units of the first three games in the series, and industry sales tracking website VGChartz estimates that sales of the PC version of the first initial release sold about 11 million copies, and The Sims 3 sold about 7 million to 8 million. An analyst at Wedbush puts the Sims loyal fan base at 3 million to 5 million, mostly female.
That is well short of 7 million to 8 million and could be marking the slow demise of social/role-playing games. The games could be being replaced by mobile apps that cost far less than the $80 sticker price on The Sims 4.
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The poster child for the revolution is Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a free mobile app from Glu Mobile Inc. (GLUU) that has so far earned about $200 million from in-app purchases. The Kardashian game appeals (surprise!) primarily to women, and women spend more time in gaming apps and more money on in-app purchases than do men.
Now, if women were as fickle as men when it comes to gaming, the Sims franchise could be in even bigger trouble. But women’s loyalty is substantially higher than average, about 42% higher, according research at Flurry.
Bug fixes the day after a new game is released are not likely to threaten sales. The Sims franchise has loyal followers and this new release likely will hit the Wedbush analyst’s estimate. But if the next version takes five years to get out the door, that could be the game’s date with the Grim Reaper.