Last week, EA actually confirmed what everyone had been expecting, that The Sims 5 is very much in development. Kind of has to be, considering how old The Sims 4 is at this point. But what wasn’t quite expected were some not-so-oblique hints that Sims 5 will include multiplayer or some sort of online play. In fact, The Sims Online — the MMORPG that ran from 2002 to 2008 — was mentioned a couple of times during an interview with EA’s CEO.
Personally, I’m all for this. I think it’s a natural progression for the series to step online — or more online, I should say, considering that the current Sims community does a lot of online connecting and sharing of created content. It’s a very social and chatty community, and I can see multiplayer neighborhoods (if done right) being right up many people’s alley. And since I do love MMOs, I’m all for seeing more pop up in the market.
However, not everyone was quite as pleased with this quote…
Yes, there be some really, really grumpy people out there who are having kittens at a possible multiplayer Sims. We should mention that actual details of if and how this would work in a game haven’t been shared, it’s merely the specter of online play that set off an emotional wail among some fans.
I parsed a lot of the responses, and it seemed like those who were dismayed by this news shared the same sentiment: “I like the game series as it is and don’t want to see this kind of major change to the format. Also, microtransactions suck but buying a million stuff packs is A-OK.” In other words, if there has to be change, it should be small, incremental, and completely in line with what came before. If a franchise is single-player, it should ALWAYS be single-player.
A few choice quotes from YouTube’s thoughtful comments section:
- “I fear that multiplayer would force everyone into the same play style”
- “For me, making sims and households is a form of escapism, and I really don’t think I could adjust well if the game was just randomly turned into a multiplayer platform.”
- “If there are micro transactions I WILL NOT purchase the game. End of story.”
- “I remember when Sims 4 was announced and they mentioned that there would be a strong online element people were furious but it turned out to be the gallery and now we can’t be without it.”
- “How can I make my own world if I have to incorporate online strangers into it?”
- “I respect some people may want a more MMORPG feel and it can be fun sometimes if the game grows a bit dull to play with friends. As along as the multiplayer feature isn’t forced for everyone and optional then I’m okay with it.”
Again, we don’t know how this would work. Or even if EA is being serious about this or just testing the waters for some sort of alternative mode. But hearing the reactions and reading into it the sentiment that MMOs ruin a good thing, I have to ask myself… is there some truth to that?
We don’t have to go far for a good example to fuel people’s fears. Fallout 76’s move online was handled so poorly, with minimal social features and a horrid cash shop and a laughable subscription. The trade-off for online play meant that some key features, such as VATS and reloading save states, had to be changed or cut entirely. And that trade-off never seemed worth it because Bethesda didn’t think the multiplayer through enough.
If EA required all Sims 5 players to always be online and always be subject to interaction with other players, then there will most certainly be issues. It would be too harsh of a trade-off, cutting out the ability to pause/speed up the game, build at one’s leisure, and the like. But I think there are many ways an online Sims could work, mostly by being a hybrid title that would be MAINLY single-player but feature a multiplayer neighborhood that would let you import a house and characters (that you created in your own space) and then have them run in real time in that pocket dimension.
It’s all in how well or poorly a multiplayer version is crafted from a largely solo series. It can be done well — just ask Final Fantasy XIV or World of Warcraft. It can be done poorly. But all of the time it will raise a lot of anxiety among fans before the final product is seen and experienced.