Don't panic. Or don't get too excited, depending on your opinions on the long-dead The Sims Online from 2002. During a recent earnings call, EA's CEO Andrew Wilson alludes to experimenting with social and competitive elements in a future Sims game but the word "MMO" was definitely not mentioned. Instead he says that "this notion of social interactions and competition [...] will start to become a part of The Sims experience in the years to come."
As reported by Sims Community, a caller asks Wilson for his thoughts on "relaunching an online version of the franchise given its large popularity," referencing EA's financial results published yesterday stating that The Sims 4 had passed 20 million unique players worldwide.
Wilson definitely doesn't mention any plans for a fully-online Sims game like The Sims Online, so we can put a pin in that for now. However, he offers some hints as to what kind of online tie-ins The Sims might try in the future.
Wilson points out that as The Sims fan community has grown, players have become more likely to share what they create through a variety of social platforms. He also notes that there's a competitive edge to The Sims, though not the way you'd generally think of esports. Rather, "how they create and what they create and how they use their imaginations and what they’re able to build inside of these Sims universes."
Despite what you think of EA's push to get their studios developing around being online (sorry, Anthem) Wilson is right about the social nature of sharing and competing in The Sims. I've been getting back into building myself since the Tiny Living Stuff Pack and have quickly found myself sucked into biweekly build competitions on Reddit. RPS' own Graham and Alice B are planning a tiny living build competition. There's something undeniably engrossing about both sharing and comparing what you've created in The Sims—whether it's a stylish split-level kitchen or a celebrity lookalike Sim.
As for what this actually means for the future of The Sims, Wilson says:
"As Maxis continues to think about The Sims for a new generation across platforms and a cloud-enabled world, you should imagine that while we will always stay true to our 'inspiration ,' 'escape,' 'creation,' and 'self-improvement' motivations [for playing games], that this notion of social interactions and competition—like the kind of things that were actually present in The Sims Online many, many years ago—that they will start to become a part of the ongoing Sims experience in the years to come.
It doesn't sound like EA are planning a full-blown Sims MMO. Rather, they seem interested in bringing the sharing and competing that Sims fans already do into the game itself or tying those behaviours closer to EA's own platforms like The Sims 4 Gallery. He does reference "social interactions" as something that was present in The Sims Online, so perhaps there is a case to be made for online shared spaces in the future of The Sims.
Sims Community have also posted the audio from Wilson's answer if you care to hear it.