In November 2016, Planet Coaster was released by Frontier Developments. The video game moguls of enterprise simulations (Rollercoaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, Jurassic World Evolution), continued their proud legacy with this new, updated world of roller coaster park building. Though the height of the building sim craze was in the early 2000’s, Frontier Developments has emerged as a quality front-runner and has since built a long-term fanbase.
And this fall, they plan to release their new and improved game: Planet Zoo.
Planet Zoo is based on their previous popular series, Zoo Tycoon. However, much like Planet Coaster was an re-tooled, redesign, and all-over quality improvement of Roller Coaster Tycoon, Planet Zoo will likely be the same. Graphics will be improved, there will be more options, gameplay will be streamlined, and everything beloved about the previous game will be brought into the new generation of gaming.
Ergo, anyone who absolutely loved Zoo Tycoon better be ready for something even better.
Even though simulation games have never gotten the same buzz as games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, or Halo get, they are consistently played and clearly have a market. After all, Planet Coaster’s success never would have garnered putting money into Planet Zoo if that wasn’t true. Though not many games populate the genre, they are still well-loved and played long past their release dates.
Part of that success has to do with the fact that, by far, sim games are some of the most sustainable experiences in gaming. In most video games, the appeal comes with a cool new gameplay, or an interesting story, a beautiful atmosphere, or a mix of all of that. While many fans can keep coming back if they love it, a lot of people play things once, enjoy it, and then are done.
By definition, sim games are where people create their own stories and experiences. That can keep the people who love that kind of shit coming back forever. Look at my 650 hours in Sims 4 in only 3 years. I can’t help myself. These games are irresistible to gamers who love creating.
It’s fascinating that in a world of so many story or experience driven games, there is this whole successful genre of encouraged creativity. While these developers give you countless tools to create with, ultimately you’re the one completely in control of the game and can do with it as you wish.
Whether that’s drowning 30 sims in your pool or having a species battle royale, that’s up to you.
Some games are even categorized into other genres, but totally fit the criteria. For example, Crusader Kings 2 is a strategy game that relies heavily on the simulation aspects of it. While you do pick a country and the technical point is to expand your empire, you also could open the Gates of Hell, seduce every woman you meet, or even hire a Horse as your court physician. While a player strategizes war, their cousin could also run a coup to destroy them because they’re a cult member. The game leaves the gambit wide open for a player to experience the game however they want, making every playthrough interesting and unique.
Furthermore, these games are always deeply involved and accepting of DLC and mods. While some games get uppity about their players using mods, Sims 4 actively accepts their players WILL use them and has in-game toggles to allow the applications. That’s how accepting and understanding sim games are of their own creative possibilities.
Both Sims 4 and Crusader Kings 2 were made in 2014 and 2012, respectively, but there are still active players enjoying both games. They even continue make DLC updates to expand gameplay. Just recently Sims 4 added Strangerville, a town with dark, mind-control secrets. Fans adored it and purchased it in droves. That’s a whole 5 years after release that fans are still wildly active. Few games keep an attentive audience for this long without being multiplayer heavy experiences. And some like Planet Coaster and Sims 4 have zero multiplayer whatsoever.
While everyone hears about the big name games from Bethesda, Ubisoft, CD Projekt Red, EA, Bioware, etc., these simulation games have their own impressive long-term success. It’s just that few people talk about it.
Simulation games are a fascinating genre that continue to live fairly under the radar. Huge RPG games gets huge releases but Planet Zoo just gets very calmly announced. Will it do poorly because of this? No. Because there is clearly a dedicated, loving fanbase for these simulation games that enjoy creating their own worlds and stories.
In a world full of flashy marketing teams, big gaming deals, and chaotic creative teams, simulation games are in a league of their own. When the time comes, sim fans like me will pick up Planet Zoo and enjoy the updated experience for years to come.
How refreshing and neat.