The Sims Social on Facebook: Can EA Games Compete with Zynga?

Ever have the problem where you want to play The Sims but you can’t because you also have to check your e-mail and browse Amazon.com’s deal of day? Me too. All the time. Luckily, soon there will be a way to have your cake, eat it, and play The Sims on Facebook.

Electronic Arts, Inc. announced in a recent press release that the Sims will be invading the popular social media platform with a free, brand new application: The Sims Social. The application will basically be a low-resolution version of the PC software, but instead of interacting with non-playable townies, you get to play with your Facebook friends.

Here’s what you can expect:

While the trailer gives me the creeps, the concept still intrigues me. The Sims Social will be the first “play with your friends” game to rival Zynga’s (the makers of Farmville) success. But instead of just sending each other sheep or fertilizing crops, you can actually interact with each other. Got a cold and can’t go out? You and your girlfriends can hit the town…on the computer. Express weird feelings for your coworker by asking him out on a virtual date. The possibilities are endless!

At this time, The Sims Social has yet to premier on Facebook, but more than 430,000 people have ‘liked’ the application and it boasts 4.7 out of 5 in user reviews. Again, nobody can even play this game yet. But EA has brilliantly offered virtual objects like an easel or bookcase if their fans hit a set goal of ‘likes’ before the unveiling. Objects already created by EA designers are free to give out, but a valuable commodity for fans. When the game finally does premier, this ensures EA that at least 430,000 people will know and most likely, start playing. Mobile apps are also in development so that smart phone users can take care of their Sims on the go. (Looks like it’s time to restart my short-lived Tamagotchi babysitting business).

But don’t worry, if at any point you want to transfer back to the PC version of The Sims 3, you still have the opportunity to share your achievements on Facebook! I recently went to play Sims 3 – for the sole reason of finding more business takeaways, of course – and had to sit through a massive software update. Once finally in the game, I had my Sim play his guitar and BAM a pop up window told me that I should make a memory out of this accomplishment. I found that pointless, but was interested in the new feature, so I clicked ‘Yes.’ This click took me to another pop up window asking if I wanted to share the accomplishment on Facebook.

So this is the massive software update I had to sit through: a plug-in that will let me share my meaningless accomplishments on Facebook! And while this doesn’t appeal to me or other players my age, players in the 12-16 age bracket (you know, the ones that fill up your news feed with Playstation trophies and Farmville updates) will probably eat this up. After all, there’s nothing quite as gratifying as one-upping your Facebook friends with Sims 3 accomplishments:

“My Sim just made Autumn Salad!”

“Oh yeah? Well, my Sim just had a kid!”

“So what? My Sim just made it to level ten of the Rockstar career and bought a mansion in France, take that!”

EA has taken serious steps to integrate online social media games and traditional PC software while also expanding their brand. The Sims Social will introduce new players to the franchise who will hopefully branch out to the PC software, while engaging past PC software users to reconnect to the franchise. Whether from nostalgia or curiosity, I imagine many past and present PC players (myself included) will at least try out the application.

For the Facebook users that enjoy Sims Social and decide to sync their Sims 3 accomplishments to their profile, their pages will become free advertising for EA. Even if other users quickly block the application updates from their newsfeed, it won’t prevent them from seeing EA’s logo a few dozen times first. While it might not be the kindest use of social media, there’s no doubt that it will be effective.

And for the first time, Zynga will see some real competition in retaining Facebook players. While Zynga games are free and collectively entice 250 million players a month, users tire quickly of them. The Sims franchise has been around for ten years with multiple games and expansions. Even with new releases priced at forty dollars, EA can still interest longtime players. A free Facebook application based on a franchise with heavy fan fidelity has the potential to dominate social network gaming, forcing Zynga to rethink their gaming model if they want to stay competitive.

Image/screenshot from The Sims Social on Facebook. The Sims and The Sims Social are registered trademarks of EA Games. All rights reserved.