It's a sunny Sunday in San Myshuno and, the minute the clock strikes midday, my budding interior designer/emerging musical talent sim grabs the festival ticket in her inventory and makes the quick ride over to Magnolia Blossom Park for Sims Sessions. This one-day festival arrives every Sunday in The Sims 4, and here in the real world, the event will only run from June 29 - July 7, meaning anyone who wants to catch the performances will need to make sure they head over to the park during this period. The Sims Sessions is the first limited-time event that The Sims 4 has ever held, and, unfortunately, it really shows.
The main draw of Sims Sessions is the performances of three real-world musicians – Bebe Rexha, Glass Animals, and Joy Oladokun – who'll each perform one of their tracks completely in Simlish for your festival-goers. Thankfully, this part of the Sims Sessions festival is brilliantly done. At the center of the festival area is a wooden stage, and the moment one of the performers emerges, your sim and everyone else attending automatically rushes over to watch. They each take a moment to greet the crowd, and then move behind the piano to perform.
Even in Simlish, the songs are utterly recognizable, and I found myself watching all three of the acts in real-time with almost the same enthusiasm as my whooping sim – look, it's been a long lockdown, okay? Joy Oladokun opens the show with her track 'Breathe Again', followed after a short break by Glass Animals' frontman Dave Bayley, while Bebe Rexha headlines with her track, 'Sabotage'. Each of the performers is brought to life excellently as a sim, with uncanny likeness, their own mannerisms, and performance quirks. As a performance piece, it's impressive and sounds brilliant. It's just a shame that the actual event feels like such a letdown.
The moment my Sim arrives at Sims Sessions, it's clear that it's a little less grand than I'd imagined it would be. For a start, it's tucked away in a corner of Magnolia Blossom Park – a recreational site in the base game neighborhood of Willow Creek – rather than its own venue. For a game with so many different neighborhoods and creative themes, it's a shame to not see Sims Sessions appear as a temporary destination in its own right. The actual festival site is underwhelming, the aforementioned wooden stage adorned with a few festoon lights, and flanked on one side by a ramshackle row of three tents. Opposite these tents is a merch stand, which the developer promised would include "artist-themed merchandise", but is actually a selection of themed t-shirts. You can access these from your household's Create-a-Sim menu and add them to your outfits.
Checking out or running the craft table are your only other options beyond interacting with other sims, buying tees, or watching the performances though. For my sim, someone had set up a small array of awkwardly carved wooden figures, which only highlighted the feeling that Sims Sessions is less of a high-profile music festival and more of an English village fete, but with fewer tombolas. Even the food on hand was limited to carrot cupcakes and a sad slice of cheese pizza, rather than the "snack like a rockstar" options teased by the event promotional details. How the local council managed to bag such A-list musical performances we'll never know.
The entire experience was wrapped up by the entire festival site unceremoniously disappearing just past 2am. My sim was singing along while playing the piano, as you're able to do after Bebe Rexha packs up, even picking up a few tips along the way, and then suddenly everyone fled the festival in one long line. A few in-game minutes later, the entire festival was just a memory, like some kind of Cinderella moment. It's worth noting that this disappearing act is the normal behavior for ongoing Sims events, like the Spice Festival or Flea Market pop-ups that were introduced with various expansions. But, for a special, limited-time event like Sims Sessions that hasn't been attempted before in-game, treating it with the same rules as events players have experienced for years felt too abrupt, reducing the spectacle of the event to just another dot on your Sims' calendar. After all, what music festival do you know that really ends at 2am?
In an industry where limited-time events and now live events are becoming much more common, Maxis and EA have missed an opportunity to make Sims Sessions a much grander affair. Fortnite has set the bar high when it comes to live events, with Epic's battle royale title hosting movie screenings, big end-of-season spectacles, musical performances, and other one-off blowouts, but now others are following suit. Most recently, Call of Duty: Warzone launched its new season with a series of in-game events that drastically changed the map – a spectacle that the community didn't want to risk missing, crashing the game's servers. Live events get players re-engaged and, perhaps more importantly, it gets them talking.
Despite the fact that Sims Sessions does follow The Sims' series tradition of working with big-name artists – which in the past have included talents like Katy Perry, Lizzo, and Jason Derulo – I expected this to be given more pomp and ceremony than it received.
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