EA has now confirmed that The Sims 5, or Project Rene, will be free to play, and while it will still sell content packs, the game could also launch with features traditionally locked behind Sims DLC.
VP franchise creative Lyndsay Pearson discussed the direction of the work-in-progress game during the latest Behind the Sims video update. Right out of the gate, she affirms that "Project Rene and The Sims 4 are gonna continue to exist side-by-side. We plan to support both at the same time, and we're gonna continue to bring even more exciting content to The Sims 4 for the foreseeable future."
Unlike The Sims 4, Pearson says "we intend for Project Rene to be free to download, and that means when it's ready and open to our players, you'll be able to join and play and explore Project Rene without a subscription, without core game purchase, or energy mechanics. We wanted it to be easy for you to invite or join a friend, and that means extending an open invitation for everyone to play."
Even EA puts an asterisk on this point later in the video, clarifying that The Sims 5 will "be free to download* when it's ready." This follows talk of potential early access periods and paid DLC packs, and the video is overall extremely careful about that "free to download" phrasing, so don't expect a totally un-monetized ecosystem.
"We're developing this game in a different way and we're bringing everyone along with us, and that means a lot of different phases of development which can include everything from closed invites in small public tests to large-scale early access options," Pearson says. "And yes, when Project Rene is ready, it'll be available to download for free."
Elsewhere, Pearson reiterates that "Project Rene is not setting out to replace your current, awesome Sims experiences." She maintains that "we want to focus on building something strong and cohesive from the start. We definitely won't start with everything you have in The Sims 4, but we're gonna add new experiences and content to Project Rene over time. Beyond regular updates to the core game, we will sell content in packs, but we want to change that mix a little bit.
"Let me give you a theoretical example. In The Sims 4 the only way to experience any weather is if you purchase Seasons. In Project Rene, we might introduce basic weather to the core game for free for everybody, and then a pack for purchase might focus on winter sports and could include activities like ice dancing or a snowman building competition. Building it this way means, down the line, we can use wind or rain or clouds for other pack themes as well. It's a little early to know exactly where to draw the lines, but it's important to lower those barriers to play and give everyone the broadest shared systems because that feels like the best foundation to grow from."
Much of Project Rene is still up in the air, but the nature of this free-to-play standalone option is slowly coming into form. It's encouraging to hear EA publicly dismiss F2P energy mechanics, and offering popular features like weather from the get-go could help distinguish the game from the likes of The Sims 4. But as Pearson says "we're still exploring a lot of different ideas and we haven't settled on all the details of everything," so don't get too attached to any one idea just yet.
The Sims 5 is still in early development, with the most recent gameplay showcase offering a quick-and-dirty look at how the actual Sims behave. At least mechanically, our resident Sims enthusiasts reckon it's looking good so far.