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Why is The Sims Free on Steam?

Let‘s cut right to the chase – The Sims 4 base game is now free on Steam and all platforms in order to bring new players into the aging franchise, reinvigorate the community, and buy more time for EA to develop the proper next-gen Sims 5 over the next few years. Read on and I‘ll explain the details!

As a long-time Sims fan myself, I was both excited and skeptical when I first heard this news. The Sims franchise has always been near and dear to my heart. Like many fans, I‘ve spent countless hours over the last two decades playing this addictively entertaining life simulation series.

So I decided to dig into the reasons behind EA‘s decision to make The Sims 4 free after selling the base game at full price for over 8 years. Here‘s the insightful analysis I discovered that help explain why this is happening.

Slowing Sales Led to a Stale Player Base

The Sims 4 based game first launched back in September 2014. Initially sales were strong with over 5 million copies sold in the first 6 months. However, according to EA‘s own financial filings, sales of the base game had slowed to a trickle recently with only about 100,000 new units moved per quarter.

After 8 years, The Sims 4 had basically tapped out the market of new base game purchases. And the total player base was starting to stagnate, limiting community engagement and expansions revenue.

Making the base game free removes that purchase barrier so new and lapsed players can try it out, providing an influx of fresh blood to rejuvenate the community.

Expansions Revenue is Now EA‘s Focus

Here‘s a telling statistic – The Sims 4 recently surpassed $1 billion in total lifetime revenue. But less than 15% of that came from sale of the base game.

The real money is made from selling expansions, with average revenue per user for Sims 4 players estimated at $67. That‘s why getting more people invested in the Sims ecosystem is the driving force behind the shift to a free base game.

EA is essentially giving the razor away for free and selling the razor blades. The base game is the gateway drug to get players hooked so they buy expansions.

Why Making Sims 4 Free Helps Fund Sims 5 Development

If this was just a move to squeeze more life out of an aging game, why wouldn‘t EA hold off until closer to Sims 5‘s release? The answer is that making Sims 4 free actually helps them buy more time to develop Sims 5 properly.

Building a truly next-gen successor that can take advantage of new technology and hardware capabilities requires significant resources and a longer dev cycle. EA confirmed Sims 5 is still "years away."

So making Sims 4 free keeps the franchise relevant and profitable over at least the next 3-4 years until Sims 5 is ready. That means more revenue they can funnel into making Sims 5 a high quality, ground-up reboot worthy of the wait.

What Exactly Do You Get with the Free Base Game?

For new players just diving into The Sims for the first time, downloading the free base version from Steam provides the complete core life simulation experience that made the franchise so addictive.

You can create unique Sims characters with distinct personalities, appearances, behaviors, and life goals. You build houses and neighborhoods for them to live in. Your Sims can pursue careers, relationships, hobbies, skills, and family life.

The free base game provides endless emergent storytelling possibilities. While limited compared to paid expansions, there are still dozens to hundreds of hours of potential gameplay for new players in the free package.

How EA Plans to Monetize the Free Base Game

Now just because the base game is free doesn‘t mean EA won‘t still capitalize on it financially. They have plenty of options to monetize the free players:

  • In-game ads – EA already tested video ads in Sims 4. Expect more now.
  • Paid cosmetics – Fashion and other customizations are prime targets for microtransactions.
  • Battle passes – Fortnite populrized this model of discounted expansions in exchange for player engagement.
  • Subscription service – EA is launching a Sims+ service next year that could gate some content.

The point is EA has plenty of levers to pull that ensure converting free base game players into revenue streams while still respecting the community.

How Can Such an Old Game Bring in New Players?

Some may wonder how a 8 year old game, even with updated graphics and features, can attract new younger gamers used to flashy modern titles. There are a few factors that should ensure The Sims 4‘s popularity even as a free relic.

  • Timeless escapism – Who wouldn‘t want to control virtual people living idealized fun lives? The Sims fulfulls universal fantasies.
  • Streamer/influencer buzz – Popular personalities can give the game renewed relevance driving fan curiosity.
  • Word-of-mouth – If friends are enjoying it, people will want to check out what they are missing. Viral momentum.
  • Accessibility – By removing any cost barrier, EA is counting on simple human curiosity to drive engagement with the free base game.
  • Modding potential – Users have created millions of amazing mods over the years. Those will breathe new life into the free version.

So while dated in some ways, the essential appeal of playing God over simulated people should attract plenty of new blood to the old girl yet. EA is counting on it!

And there you have my deep dive on the Sims 4 going free. Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to wax philosophical about this classic franchise that‘s brought me so much joy over the years. Whether you‘re a fellow grizzled veteran or considering your first foray into The Sims, I hope you found this overview helpful.

Happy simming my friend!