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Maxis' Lucy Bradshaw

The VP discusses rehousing The Sims on console and how an Online Pass might work for the 125m selling franchise

Maxis is best known for its work on the 125 million unit-selling The Sims franchise, and up until last year was the home of revered game designer Will Wright. The team has recently released The Sims 3 on PC and is working on a console version of the game for release later this month.

GamesIndustry.biz recently took the opportunity to sit down with vice president and general manager of Maxis, Lucy Bradshaw, and EA Play VP of marketing John Buchanan, to discuss the move to home consoles, how EA's continued monetisation of online play might affect The Sims series, and whether the team will ever get the opportunity to work with Will Wright again.

GamesIndustry.biz The Sims 3 is coming to home consoles at the end of the month - what's driving that move to console, and do you think the franchise will always be associated with the PC format?
John Buchanan

We're talking about one of the greatest franchises in the history of gaming. 125 million units sold in just ten years time. It has an incredibly robust, enthusiastic and dedicated community and so for us we wanted to bring the experience of the world's greatest life simulation to the console. That's an incredibly powerful technique that the team has been able to do, but still keep the core essence of what The Sims is.

GamesIndustry.biz Have the massive changes in the PC market, online market and social gaming had an affect on the push of The Sims to console, and the way you're approaching the brand on home systems?
John Buchanan

At the core, the essence of The Sims, we will always have a very successful and robust business on the PC platform. We have an incredibly robust line-up. We continue to see ourselves doing incredibly well on the PC platform. In fact, The Sims 3 is outselling where we were with The Sims 2. For us the PC is an incredibly healthy platform. What we see is other opportunities on the iPad, the iPhone, the home consoles, and being able to extend that great experience that the PC delivers. So it isn't changing or circumventing what's going on in the PC space, in fact we find it to be incredibly healthy, it's the world's largest platform. For us it's about extending that experience to other places where people want to play that game.

Lucy Bradshaw

Additionally, the fact that the consoles have gone online gave us an opportunity to take The Sims and adapt it to those platforms that now have the abilities that made such a strong community on the PC space. By integrating all of the community directly into the game and having it so you never have to load the game to bring in new assets, it's a really amazing experience now.

GamesIndustry.biz Have consoles still got a long way to go before they truly emulate that community strength and service that we know on PC?
Lucy Bradshaw

I think they're really building on that. So much so that it becomes that we can recreate that social experience, create achievements and that sharing that has been a hallmark of The Sims. I think we've managed to take that even further on console and it's exciting to see the team take advantage of the platform. It brings something that the last generation of consoles didn't have.

GamesIndustry.biz Is there anything you'd like to see the format holders do to improve online services on home consoles?
Lucy Bradshaw

They're been taking consoles in interesting directions. The Wii brought together a much more broader sense of family play and experience, which allowed us to take The Sims from an office environment on the PC to the living room and that really brings a new experience. A lot of the features that The Sims 3 is bringing to console is taking advantage of the living room. Achievements and sharing - those kind of changes and progressions in the console space is bring a new audience to those formats. When we have something like The Sims it's another playground for us.

GamesIndustry.biz I spoke to Rod Humble at E3 and he said it's amazing how differently people play The Sims when they're in their study space compared to a living room...
Lucy Bradshaw

It's a different dynamic that we saw, and bringing people around the game to play The Sims is something that was already there but not necessarily the most inviting place to do it. Doing it around the couch is a different experience.

GamesIndustry.biz Rod also said he was interested in the way social gaming works, particularly since EA bought up Playfish, and incorporating some of their methods into game development. Is that a similar idea to how Maxis is operating?
Lucy Bradshaw

Social gaming is a really different environment, you're playing with something very quickly and you need to see what people respond to. That type of learning does come into the client space as well. For the longest time we've looked at our community and taken feedback and integrated it into expansions, the Stuff pack, all of the things that we've done with the PC game. We've had that relationship but you do that at a lightening pace in the social gaming environment.

Because you can develop quickly, you can respond to player feedback, you can see how quickly people are attracted to a feature or a dynamic as soon as you put it in and give them more of that. Taking down the wall between the developers and their players, and having that response through telemetry or testing, both parties - Playfish and our studio teams that make Facebook games - are learning a lot.

GamesIndustry.biz That must be a quick learning process for your developers?
Lucy Bradshaw

Whenever you turn something around so quickly it's fun. In the client space you've worked on something for 18 months and you're getting usability testing all he way through, but in social you're out there in front of players right away. For the game industry in general it's a very exciting space and it's about how do you apply that in your design in different environments.

GamesIndustry.biz With costs so high for console games - and rewards high for the big hits - is it tempting to play it safe when releasing a franchise game like this, rather than risking innovation?
John Buchanan

We look at it a bit differently. What's exciting for us is the Wii has introduced a whole new audience to play and it continues to sell very well. The PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, every single day they're bringing in more families to this industry and allowing them to play. With Move and Kinect, that's going to extend a whole new level of experiences for play. We look at each of those different platforms and ask ourselves how can we build the best quality product and experiences for those people?

We work closely with our studio teams to deliver the best game that we possible can. If we put all that together and communicate it appropriately against those different platforms we will see success. We don't look at it as getting more competitive and it's costing more, we recognise an opportunity to be successful by creating experiences and communicating those with the right marketing approach. The success comes for the experiences those people have when they play those games.

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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