Giants Software's Farming Simulator is very popular with real life farmers, senior artist Marc Schwegler told Polygon.
"It's very popular with people in the agricultural industry," Schwegler said. "They are the most vocal audience we have — people who are actually farming. They're very active on our forums and they'll tell us if we're doing something wrong."
Farming Simulator is most popular in Europe, with its core market in Germany, according to Schwegler. Traditionally the games have been published for PC, but due to its mounting popularity, Giants decided to make the leap to console. Farming Simulator 2013 will be available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in September.
"Our core audience is kids," Schwegler said. "They're starting [to play Farming Simulator] around age eight and play until they're 14 or 15. But once they hit puberty, it's not so cool anymore and they just want to shoot things."
Schwegler said that while PC is the gaming hardware of choice in Germany, consoles are more popular in some international territories — North America, for example, is keen on its Xboxes and PlayStations. Porting Farming Simulator to consoles ensures that this audience has access to the game.
Part of what makes the game appealing is its nature as a sandbox — players are free to harvest crops at their leisure and choose what type of tractor or harvester they use to do it. It's a no-pressure game based on a real-world occupation that is actually quite grueling; but in Farm Simulator, players can have all the fun of driving a tractor and plowing fields without the stress and strain.
According to Schwegler, the North American market is the company's biggest audience for downloadable versions of Farm Simulator, with more than 100,000 copies sold through Steam. The popularity of Farming Simulator fan-made parody videos and the game's frequent inclusion in Steam sales likely contributed to that success. Because of this, Giants Software has added more American-inspired farm maps to the PS3 version, featuring big red barns with white trim, more level fields — a departure from the bumpy hills of Europe — and larger farm structures.
"We tried to give Americans more incentive to play the game," Schwegler said.
"We just got the idea [for Farming Simulator] while thinking about the sims out there," Schwegler explained. "There are fighting sims, and all those other life sims. Then someone said, 'let's do a harvest simulation.' Then we thought, 'hey, let's add tractors,' and then we began adding everything else around it as well."
Players can expand their in-game farms with numerous fields holding several kinds of crops — wheat, barley, canola, corn, potatoes and sugar beets. These can be harvested, collected and brought to different places to sell for profit. Then players can return to their farm and continue to cultivate their products. Players also have a handful of different tractor models to choose from and can buy more fields once they've packed their existing ones. An area map will indicate to players what fields in an area are open to cultivation, which ones need to be harvested and when they are withered and need to be removed
"It's an endless game," said Schwegler. "Slow, relaxing games can be good."