Farm­ing for gold


SHow Gi­ants Soft­ware is bring­ing PC cult hit Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor to con­soles

ome of Steam’s most sur­pris­ing statis­tics come not from the likes of Dota 2, Skyrim or Plan­etSide 2, but Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 2013. At the time of writ­ing it boasts more ac­tive play­ers than Alien: Iso­la­tion, has a higher peak player count than Fi­nal Fan­tasy XIII, and en­joys some 2,400 pos­i­tive player reviews to just 167 neg­a­tive ones, sev­eral of which are ap­par­ently con­fused about what the game set out to achieve.

Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor is, how­ever, just part of a surge of seem­ingly mun­dane sim­u­la­tions over re­cent years, in­clud­ing the likes of Euro Truck Sim­u­la­tor, Ski Re­gion Sim­u­la­tor, and Ware­house And Lo­gis­tics Sim­u­la­tor (com­plete with the un­for­get­tably named DLC Hell’s Ware­house). Many have proven sur­pris­ingly popular, with Euro Truck Sim­u­la­tor 2 in par­tic­u­lar find­ing a size­able niche thanks to the ef­fort put into sim­u­lat­ing the free­dom of the open road.

But Gi­ants Soft­ware’s Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 15 will be the first to try to break into the cur­rent con­sole gen­er­a­tion, jumping from PC to both PS4 and Xbox One in 2015. “There aren’t many sim­u­la­tion games on the con­soles, so there are a lot of mixed opin­ions about whether it will be suc­cess­ful or not,” Gi­ants CEO Christian Am­mann ad­mits. “We have our own ap­proach to sim­u­la­tion games. We tried to shake out the dust that is in this genre from the very tech­ni­cal, heavy sim­u­la­tions like Flight Sim­u­la­tor. Our ap­proach was to make it far more ac­ces­si­ble.”

Per­haps Gi­ant’s tim­ing couldn’t be bet­ter. After all, Minecraft has shown that you can put a price on player cre­ativ­ity, and that price is two-and-a-half bil­lion dol­lars. Games such as An­i­mal Cross­ing, Har­vest Moon and Far­mVille show there’s an en­dur­ing ap­petite for light life and live­stock man­age­ment, but genre fans can also come from un­ex­pected cor­ners. The re­sponse to World Of War­craft’s op­tional farm in the Mists Of Pan­daria ex­pan­sion led to Bliz­zard de­vot­ing a chunk of War­lords Of Draenor to some­thing sim­i­lar – al­beit in the form of a mil­i­tary gar­ri­son.

“We see quite a lot of dif­fer­ent play­ers, so we have the hard­core fans, some of whom are re­ally farm­ers. Oth­ers are kids; we have a lot of kids play­ing with their par­ents,” Am­mann says. “And we’ve got re­ally core gamers who play Call Of Duty and Bat­tle­field as well, who just like play­ing Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor at some points be­cause it’s re­lax­ing.”

That au­di­ence puts Gi­ants in a tricky po­si­tion when it comes to re­al­ism. Even CTO Ste­fan Geiger agrees it can be hard sell: “The first time you hear it, you think, well, ‘Farm­ing? Nah.’” So much of the work that goes into the game is about cut­ting to the ap­peal of the job, and not be­ing too re­stricted by de­tails. “I’d say that one of the ben­e­fits of the games is to achieve things faster than in the real world. It’s im­por­tant that it’s quicker.”

“For some, it’s su­per-un­re­al­is­tic what we do, and for oth­ers it’s su­per-re­al­is­tic, and it al­ways de­pends on what you want to com­pare,” Am­mann says. “If you com­pare Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor to Far­mVille, sure, it’s su­per-re­al­is­tic. But if you com­pare it to the real world, it’s still sim­pli­fied. Grow­ing a field takes half a year: that’s some­thing we have to speed up.”

“In the end, we don’t have to com­pete. We have our own di­men­sion, like Minecraft has”

Christian Am­mann, CEO, Gi­ants Soft­ware

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