Note: this is not a news or wiki staff blog, but rather it is an opinion blog. The opinions expressed here are the opinions of the author, and not necessarily the opinions of any other TSW administrator or member.
Since being promoted to Bureaucrat a few days ago, I've been thinking more in-depth on the future of this wiki. Of course, in order to consider where this wiki is going to go, one needs to keep an eye on the future of the series it follows. For the first time that I can remember, that future is not clear.
I think that The Sims, including an eventual The Sims 4 (or whatever they choose to call it) is going to incorporate more multiplayer features than are in any of the previous versions of the game. I hinted at this possibility when EA Maxis announced Showtime, which included new social features. I think, given what we've seen so far in the progression of TS3, as well as in an upcoming reboot from Maxis, the odds are pretty good that the hypothetical TS4 is going to be much more social network-oriented. For better or worse.
Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of multiplayer in principle. But I also like my game and the singleplayer aspects of it, and I'd hate to sacrifice too many of those in exchange for allowing multiplayer functionality. To me, that wouldn't just be an inconvenience, it would change the very nature of the game I'm playing.
I very much doubt that EA Maxis would be embarking on any project like this if they didn't see some potential for profit. The Sims is arguably one of the backbones of EA's software library, and certainly offers itself as a cash cow, with all its special editions, compilation packs, stuff packs, expansion packs, downloadable store content, and horrible celebrity crap packs. I don't think that EA Maxis would make a radical change to the series unless there was justification for it.
But I believe there just may be. Consumers and gamers are fickle people, and it can be argued that all The Sims games up to now have largely followed the same formula. Each new game in the series has offered improvements over what came before it - better graphics, more playing options, larger neighborhoods/towns, more in-depth character creation, etc - while the base games or expansions have added things here and there. But the game remains much the same as it was back in 2000 - a single-player life simulator. The question that EA is likely asking is; how much longer can we sell the same product before we can't sell it anymore? How much longer can The Sims continue to be what it has been for the past 12 years? When will fundamental change in the series become necessary for the ongoing survival of the series? And if that fundamental change is too great, will the result be the end of the series itself?
Surely nothing lasts forever, but up to now it has been hard to imagine an end to The Sims. The franchise has been wildly successful and, as before stated, a great source of profit for EA. But if that success begins to wane due to either a stagnant game series with little new innovation or a fundamental game change that alienates the players that made the series so popular to begin with, I can imagine it won't be long before the end is in sight.
I don't want to cry about the sky falling, but I feel that the former scenario mentioned might already be taking place. Certainly I for one am not as immersed in the game as I once was - this can be as much attributed to things going on in real life that take precedence to gaming, as it can be to the game itself, but it appears that I am not alone here. For instance, numerous fan sites for The Sims have either been downsizing or folding up. Recently, SimPrograms has even considered the possibility of shutting down due to staff issues, including a lack of passion for the games. It seems as though the whole game series is headed for a crossroads, and the decision that EA Maxis makes on the direction impacts the future of its series, and the future of all those sites that follow the series.
The future of The Sims Wiki hinges on the future of the series. First, for as long as Wikia exists, there will be a Sims Wiki on it, so I have no doubt that the information compiled so far on this sim-cyclopedia will remain available indefinitely. But the community that has developed here within this wiki, that follows the games and dutifully keeps the gears of the wiki turning, is always changing. Some people come, while others go; that is an inescapable part of wikis in general. But, if the series were to end or were to change to the point of alienating its fans, the effect would be felt here too, with declining involvement, declining readership, and ultimately a declining quality of the wiki itself.
I do not want to make it seem as if I think these changes are all right around the corner. There is a possibility that The Sims series could continue strong for years, or decades. There is no reason to declare now that the game is dead, only a reason to express caution at what the future holds for it. So, there is no reason to say now that this wiki has had its day; as long as the series goes on, fans will be here, keeping the pages neat and the community alive.
I didn't want to write this blog simply to lament or worry or complain or speculate. I wanted to talk about our future. For while we do strongly depend on the future of the series, we can just as well ensure our own continued success and strength. I believe there are a few keys to this.
1 - Be always open to new people. - We should be trying to make personal contact with more of the users who join our ranks. I know personally that I, very early on in my wiki days, was reached out to by members of this Wiki. Had that not happened, I probably would have disappeared shortly thereafter, much like many of our short-time contributors. While not everyone will choose to stick around for the long term, I think having more personal contact with these new people - while always remembering not to 'bite' - might go a long way to keeping a few more of them.
2 - Maintain our community features. - Keeping our many community features - Featured Content, Battles, Contests, the monthly mainpage poll, the Facebook Page, Twitter profile, etc - running smoothly is no small task, and it takes a large number of staff and dedicated people to do it. While we are first and foremost an encyclopedia on The Sims, it's important to have fun while editing here, and these features allow that. So keeping the level of features we have now, or even considering expansion, is in my book a very good idea.
3 - Don't fear discussion. - Many members here have a hesitation to participate in Community Portal discussions. Those discussions have had a history of becoming quite heated (I take part of the blame for this), but they ultimately tackle a lot of issues that affect the wiki and the community. Long story short, if the matters being discussed there weren't important, we wouldn't be talking about them. So if you're a member of the wiki that doesn't often, or ever, participate, I encourage you to stop by the Community Portal talk page and weigh in on the topics of the day, or even start a topic of your own if you feel something should be discussed. While some of us may seem to dominate the conversation, I assure you we are totally open to anyone's opinions and want you to get involved in the wiki's decision-making. This is not a wiki owned by the bureaucrats and admins, it's a wiki owned by everyone, and everyone should have a say in how it is run.
4 - Outreach - This one is a deviation from what we've done here at TSW up to this point. I personally believe in the benefit of interaction with other fan sites. I think that TSW often seems isolated from the rest of the fan community, and that probably acts as a deterrent to new membership here. We have what could honestly be called a weak affiliate program, but I'm talking about more direct interaction with sites. This is just one idea that has always been in the back of my head, and I've always wanted to know how others felt about it, so I'm throwing it out there. I believe becoming more active in the fansite circles would bring new users here, and with them, new knowledge about the games, including things we might be lacking in here (for instance, technical knowledge about the games, their programming, modifications, etc).
So, all in all, the series is on the move, and where it goes no one knows. As the series moves, so does TSW and the rest of the fandom. And whether we end up with a Sims that continues to entertain for decades, or a game that largely departs from its roots, or a game that simply ceases to be, we will always have The Sims Wiki. So it's our job as the community today to ensure that we have a strong community into the future.