Twenty years after its debut, durable gaming title “The Sims” is getting the reality-TV show treatment — a la “Project Runway” — in which 12 contestants vie for a $100,000 grand prize.
Electronic Arts’ “The Sims Spark’d,” a show centered on challenges in the virtual-world game, will launch later this month on TBS under Turner Sports’ ELeague esports and gaming entertainment brand, as well as on BuzzFeed Multiplayer, which covers gaming, cosplay and game culture.
In the four-episode show, which premieres July 17, notable members of “The Sims” online community will compete in skills and elimination challenges in the simulation game, racing against the clock to impress the three-judge panel. The 12 contestants each specialize in an element of “The Sims 4” gameplay (character design, home building and story).
“Since its inception, ‘The Sims’ has been a groundbreaking experience, allowing players to create and virtually live out the stories they create in-game,” said Lyndsay Pearson, GM of “The Sims” franchise. “That’s also why this show is so exciting. We’re continuing that innovative spirit, bringing our community together to compete and showcase their in-game storytelling on a reality show in an entirely new way.”
EA shot the footage for “The Sims Spark’d” in late 2019 at the EA Broadcast Studio in Redwood City, Calif., with the shoot wrapping before the end of the year. The company tapped Richard Hall, a TV producer who formerly worked on “The Amazing Race,” to help with production on the series.
Both Turner Sports and BuzzFeed are hoping the “Sims” fanbase will drive viewers to check out the show on their respective platforms. Last month, EA said “The Sims 4” hit a peak high of nearly 10 million unique monthly players in the past quarter, with 2.5 million joining in the previous two months.
For Turner Sports, “The Sims Spark’d” fits into its strategy of broadening ELeague — which started as specifically focused on esports competitions — to encompass gaming lifestyle and culture programming, said Craig Barry, Turner Sports’ chief content officer.
“We’ve been looking for games and platforms where we could really lean into the gaming culture,” Barry said. “When ‘Sims Spark’d’ came up it was kind of the perfect direction we were going in… There are very few gaming franchises that are not sports that have stood the test of time like ‘The Sims.'”
That said, he acknowledged that “The Sims” is “an untapped gaming platform in terms of building a TV property – so it’s a little bit unproven.” Barry continued, “There’s some proof-of-concept going into it… But we feel this is the perfect product for a TV audience.” Turner’s hope is that the show will draw in both casual fans (or even those who aren’t familiar with the game) as well as die-hard “Sims” players.
The host of “The Sims Spark’d” is Rayvon Owen, an “American Idol” finalist in Season 14. The show’s three judges are: BuzzFeed Multiplayer producer and YouTube personality Kelsey Impicciche, known for her own #100babychallenge series she created with “The Sims”; singer-songwriter Tayla Parx, who has done voice acting work for the game and sang “Me vs. Us” (in the Simlish in-game language) for “The Sims 4 Get Famous” expansion pack; and game developer Dave “SimGuruNinja” Miotke, who has worked at EA’s Maxis Studios (which is behind “The Sims”) for 15 years.
Alongside the show’s TBS debut, EA is launching a series of in-game challenges in “The Sims 4” called the Spark’d Challenge Program starting Friday, July 17, in which the top creators can win a chance to be considered for a future season of “The Sims Spark’d.” (More info is available at this link.)
“The Sims Spark’d” presented by ELeague will debut Friday, July 17, at 11 p.m. ET/PT on TBS. Episodes will continue to premiere weekly on Fridays (July 24 and 31 and Aug. 7) in the 11 p.m. slot on TBS, with repeat airings on Saturdays (July 18 and 25 and Aug. 1 and 8) at 8 a.m. on the network.
The episodes will then go to BuzzFeed Multiplayer, which will stream each installment of “The Sims Spark’d” on the Monday after airing on TV (July 20, 27 and Aug. 3, 10).
Cast of “The Sims Spark’d”
“We are excited to introduce the highly engaged Gen Z community of BuzzFeed Multiplayer to an inventive new form of storytelling within the imaginative world of ‘The Sims,’” BuzzFeed Multiplayer executive producer Branden Smith said in a statement.
Ahead of “The Sims Spark’d” premiere, ELeague will air a special episode of “ELeague Game Night focused” on “The Sims 4,” premiering Friday, July 10, at midnight ET/PT on TBS. Kelly Nugent and Ify Nwadiwe of ELeague Super Punch will serve as co-hosts for the one-hour edition of “Game Night,” which will feature participants from “The Sims Spark’d” including host Rayvon Owen and show contestants Doctor Ashley and Xmiramira.