Electronic Arts recently released a lengthy trailer for The Sims 4, the upcoming instalment in its popular series of life-simulation games. The new video contained a surprising hint that EA might be planning a "Premium" version of the new game.
The trailer is more than 20 minutes long, and the majority of that time is spent showing new or revamped gameplay for The Sims 4:
The moment that raised some flags comes at 13:26, when this image pops up:
The text reads:
The Sims 4 Premium. Save on new packs with early access and exclusive items. Become a Premium member to get early access to three new packs, with exclusive items. Your Sims can throw a spooky costume party, camp in the great outdoors, and toast to the new year in style.
For a bit of context: this image shows up in the trailer during a discussion of the new game's "gallery" system. Ryan Vaughan and Graham Nardone, the two producers talking through the gameplay in the video, explain that this is a new feature meant to work similarly to The Exchange, a sort of ad-hoc network that was set up for The Sims 3 that allowed players to upload stuff they'd made in that game and share it with the wider Sims community. Like many exciting features in The Sims 4, the gallery sounds like one of those things that will streamline an interesting part of gameplay and thus make it more fun.
Seeing an image that reads like an advertisement for a new "Premium" version of a game not known for such things has raised some questions, however. Some critics and Sims fans are now wondering if EA is planning to structure The Sims 4's release similarly to how it handles the Battlefield franchise: by giving players the opportunity to spend more money to enrol in a so-called "Premium" membership that grants them early access to new updates and add-ons.
For much of its history, The Sims has released periodic expansion packs that give players new items and other goodies. But except for The Sims Online, which launched in 2002 and charged a $US9.99 monthly subscription fee, the series hasn't changed up the way it releases new content or charges players for it in turn.
EA hasn't said anything about a new The Sims 4 Premium version either. As of this writing, the only two versions of the game listed on its website are a $US59.99 "Limited Edition" version and a $US69.99 "Digital Deluxe" one, which has a few extra chunks of bonus content.
A representative from Electronic Arts told me the company had no comment on the matter.