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