The Sims 4 is the longest-run Sims title of all time, with a community as vibrant as it is opinionated. With Snowy Escape, the latest expansion pack set in a Japanese-inspired mountain town, EA offers a lovely mix of content, some of which are expected responses to fan requests, and others which surprised even the most dedicated Simmers.
But with the arrival of Xbox Series X, PS5, and improved PC graphics cards, it's only natural to pose the question – what's next for The Sims 4? Is it The Sims 5, with more open-world options like the ones offered in popular mod Brookheights? Or is Snowy Escape further proof that there's more to be mined from the reigning Sims title? I sat down with producer Graham Nardone, aka SimGuruGraham, to chat about Snowy Escape, the Sims community, and the future of The Sims 4.
The Sim Crowd
Snowy Escape introduces two new gameplay features: Lifestyles and Sentiments. I outline how Lifestyles and Sentiments work in more detail in The Sims 4 Snowy Escape preview, but in the simplest terms, they beef up the gameplay experience. The two features add complexity to Sims' personalities and their interpersonal relationships, ultimately deepening the simulation experience. It's what the community has relentlessly requested for so many years now.
And while The Sims community has consistently asked for more in-depth life simulation elements, the requests have been for things like cars, open-world elements, and more "rabbit-hole" type places like grocery stores and museums (which Sims can enter but the player cannot). With Lifestyles and Sentiments, we're getting more depth to the simulation, but in a way we didn't technically ask for.
"Players did not expect that out of us," Nardone admits. "But it is something that they have been highly discussing and requesting… I think that increased depth to the simulation is a big thing for players." EA's strategy, when filling a long-time request for more depth, is to occasionally subvert expectations. "I think it's cool, playing with those expectations a little bit while still delivering on the things that people really want at that core level," Nardone says.
But EA doesn't always flip the script when it comes to adding oft-requested content – sometimes they just deliver what was ordered. Just recently, The Sims 4 team broke ground on fixing its skin tone problem after years of Simmers creating mods that added more options for darker shades at a better quality than what the game offered. While there's more work to be done, the community as a whole has responded positively to this much-needed addition.
There's more representation to be had, however. For years Simmers have been requesting disability options like wheelchairs, disabled-friendly home objects, and service dogs. And EA is listening. "We've had active outreach with players in the community and asked, 'what are better ways that we can represent you? What are some of the things that we can do to recreate those moments, or lived experiences, respectfully within The Sims 4?'" Nardone points out. "I think the thing that we want to avoid is turning it into a feature."
Less The Sims 5, more The Sims 4.5
It's safe to consider Snowy Escape a peek into what lies ahead for The Sims 4 – at least in the game's near future. Snowy Escape is a large, expansive pack that includes dramatic gameplay changes and a groundbreaking build function (platforms) for a base game that's already six years old. Some of those changes will be included as a free update for Sims players who don't buy the pack.
Lifestyles and Sentiments are dramatic changes to the life simulation portion of The Sims 4, and while it's a welcome surprise, I'd argue it's the game's natural progression. For many who have played this game consistently for the past six years (or even just recently) there's an almost uniform desire to dive deeper into interpersonal relationships and autonomous behavior. There needs to be more life in the life sim.
However, there's only so much that can be done to a base game that's six years old, and if the fake YouTube trailers have anything to say about it, The Sims 5 is at the forefront of the community's hive mind. While there will be "some improvements" to The Sims 4 on Xbox Series X and PS5, there doesn't seem to be any plans to ride the next-gen wave with a new title anytime soon. For EA, the Sims 4 well hasn't run dry.
"There's such a diverse range of topics and features that we could cover, the possibility space of what we can do within The Sims 4 is just humongous," Nardone tells me when I ask about the potential of a new game. "I think that just goes to show that there's way more that we can still do within this title, and our players are plenty hungry for more content that we can give in. That's a good problem to have."
I'd say that's a hard-line 'no' for The Sims 5, wouldn't you?