A lot of video game hits have been released during this holiday season: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Battlefield 1, Gears of War 4 and…Farming Simulator 17.
To be fair, "hit" is somewhat of a relative term here. Aside from being the only game that's not about shooting hundreds of people in the face, Farming Simulator 17 differs from the rest of the games mentioned above in that it won't sell as many millions of copies. But for a niche simulation game, it's doing great.
According to a press release from publisher Focus Home Interactive, Farming Simulator 17 has sold 1 million copies since it was released on October 24. That's twice as many copies as Farming Simulator 15 sold in the same period of time. Overall, Farming Simulator 15 sold 3 million copies in two years. It seems Farming Simulator 17 is well on track to surpass that number. According to Steam, it hit a peak of almost 15,000 concurrent players Friday, which coincidentally puts it right behind another recently released simulation game: Planet Coaster.
"Farming Simulator was always a game for fans, but with Farming Simulator 17 it has expanded into a whole new experience for a wide audience, who needed to be offered new things in video games," Cédric Lagarrigue, president of Focus Home Interactive, said.
I played some Farming Simulator 17 when it came out. It is very much like Farming Simulator 15, which is to say that it is really fun and different, especially if you play it with a $300 custom controller.
That being said, I'm a little disappointed that it hasn't addressed my biggest issue with the series: it is still pretty damn hard to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing at any given moment. The tutorials just don't do a good job of explaining what I should be doing on a micro level (how the hell do I get this bale of hay in my truck?), or on a macro level (what kind of crops do I want to plant, and why?). But if you can figure out that stuff and sort through some other user interface issues, it's fun. Meticulously driving a combine harvester over a wheat field is a nice change of pace over shooting a carbine rifle in Battlefield 1.
It's encouraging to see that there's clearly a market for a game like this, especially in a season when it seems video games are mostly about bullets. The issue is that the game's developer, Giants, has been dominating this genre for years, so it didn't have much of a reason to change a working formula. This is why I'm very excited about the release of Pure Farming 17 early next year, which seems like the first legitimate competitor to Farming Simulator. Hopefully it shakes things up a bit.
Correction: This article originally misidentified Farming Simulator 15 as Farming Simulator 16. There is no Farming Simulator 16 for PC.