Game designer Will Wright struck gold with his hit video game SimCity in 1989. While the game’s publisher Maxis tried to replicate the success of SimCity with unsuccessful spin-offs like SimAnt and SimEarth, Wright wanted to take the Sim games into a new direction, with a virtual doll house style game that simulated daily activities of people’s lives.
That game became The Sims, and despite the company’s initial doubts, it quickly became one of the highest selling video game franchises of all time.
Will Wright’s idea for The Sims was sparked after he lost his home during the Oakland firestorm of 1991. Replacing his home and putting his life back together made him realize that that experience could be turned into a video game.
But when he took the idea to Maxis, the company who published his previous Sim games, they were skeptical and refused to finance development of the idea. The board of directors believed the doll house concept would only appeal to girls, and according to them, girls didn’t play video games. But things changed in 1997 after Maxis was acquired by Electronic Arts, who saw potential in developing an entire Sims series of games.
EA published The Sims in February of 2000, and it quickly overshadowed SimCity as Wright’s most successful game. It eventually overtook Myst and claimed the title of best-selling computer game of all time. Within six years, The Sims franchise had sold over 16 million copies, earning EA over a billion dollars.
The Sims was also critically acclaimed, and is seen as a success for attracting casual and female gamers, the latter comprising over half of the game’s player base. It has even been selected as one of 14 games to be included in the Museum of Modern Art.
After releasing a series of sequels and expansions, The Sims series sold over 200 million copies. Despite almost never being made, The Sims is one of the top selling video game series of all time.