Who keeps playing these games?
I occasionally find myself being asked to, if not justify, at least explain why I like certain niche games. In particular, my obsession with roguelikes and historical grand strategy titles often leads to me going on detailed rants about the wonders these games offer.
Despite this, I sometimes find myself on the other side of things when I see people getting excited about Farming Simulator 2013 or Euro Truck Simulator 2, becoming absolutely baffled about who buys these things and what they get out of them.
Chatting with Gamasutra, Pavel Sebor, owner of SCS Software, creators of Euro Truck Simulator 2, among others, and Marc Schwegler from Giants Software, makers of the Farming Simulator series explain the draw of these unusual titles, their demographics, and how they've attempted to overcome the derision these games often garner.
"When it comes to audience, we know we have basically two distinct groups of players, with a big hole between them," Sebor tells Gamasutra. "There are kids 8-12 playing the games - players who are not yet into FPS or other core genres, but are captivated by the idea of driving these big vehicles. I guess every boy at age 7 or so wanted to drive a cement mixer or garbage truck or something similar." I can't say I ever had such small dreams. I wanted to go to the moon and hunt down aliens, not drive really slow vehicles. Then again, I don't even drive now.
Sebor noted that the second distinct group of players were 35+ gents, often professionals or truck enthusiasts, which certainly makes sense. The age bracket between these two doesn't seem particularly interested in SCS's games, Sebor laments. "We have very little traction in the age group in-between, everybody there is too busy fragging each other in Call of Duty. We have more adult players than we have pre-teen and teen players really."
With Farming Simulator, the main demographic is young boys, according to Schwegler, with a fascination with tractors, as well as farmers themselves, who apparently love these games. This, I can understand. Growing up surrounded by farms, I found such things pretty interesting myself, as a child. In fact, according to my folks, after mum and dad, my first word was a pitiful attempt at "tractor".
Europe appears to be the biggest market for these games, with SCS finding that they sell the most in Eastern Europe and Scandanavia, while Giants Software do well in Central Europe."Even though the average purchasing power is very different between say the UK and Poland, we actually sell more copies in Poland than in bigger Western Europe countries." Sebor clarifies. "We also have lots of fans in developing market countries like Brazil or Turkey, and incredible number of players in China, but it's really hard to actually sell any games in those markets."
On the topic of ridicule and derision, Sebor takes it on the chin. He believes that as truck driving is seen as a lower class job in, say, the UK, it's not as appealing in those territories. But, as you go further east, they are seen as games with a sense of "adventure and distant horizons" and are possibly better paid jobs there, too.
With the success of Farming Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator on Steam, it seems like they are getting more recognition, even amongst more mainstream gamers. The tongue-in-cheek videos on Youtube probably do a bit to help their sales, too, with people grabbing the games, possibly almost as a joke, but actually enjoying them. Check out the full interview for more details, it's actually pretty damn interesting.