Electronic Arts has unveiled The Sims Online, a Web version of its popular Sims line, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in LA
The announcements of The Sims and other games follow in the wake of Microsoft unveiling plans to wire its Xbox, and Sony describing its online gaming strategy.
The Sims Online banks on the success of The Sims PC game and all its expansion packs – The Sims Vacation, The Sims House Party, The Sims Livin' Large, and The Sims Hot Date.
"EA is building a community for people to share their experiences," says Luc Barthelet, senior vice president of Electronic Arts.
The Sims Online is a virtual world where players can create a Sim re-creation of themselves or whomever they want to be. Players have a lot of freedom, making the experience rewarding, says Will Wright, the game's metaphorical cartographer.
Players own a virtual piece of land, which they develop as they choose, building a house, a bar, or coffeehouse, for example. They can also build a network of online and virtual friends and enemies, explore digital neighbourhoods, and "meet" other Sims through live text chat or instant messages.
"Sharing time with others makes the game more realistic," Barthelet says. The Sims Online will cost between $11 and $14 monthly, and requires The Sims CD-ROM. The Sims Online is due for release in November in the United States and Canada. A European version is expected in early 2003, depending on the success of the American version.
Despite the hype from game developers and console makers alike – and the huge success of games such as EverQuest – the field of subscriber-based online gaming is apparently still feeling its way. One early entry from EA is already out of the race. Majestic, a critically acclaimed but experimental game, is one of the early casualties. The company officially – and quietly – pulled the plug on the online game in April.
The critically acclaimed Majestic was an unusual and potentially engaging game, playable online and off. Its fictional characters would contact players by email, phone call, fax, page, and instant message to provide clues to progress in the game and solve the mystery of a complex storyline.
The company put Majestic on hiatus after September 11, out of concern about confusion over real and fictitious emergencies. Majestic went permanently out of service on April 30, according to EA. Even its fresh approach to mystery sci-fi thrillers couldn't save it.
"While the game was a huge critical success, it was not as popular with players," according to EA. The company discontinued the service "to focus its resources on new, more popular content".