Gaming Goes Green: Electronic Arts Brings Electric Cars to The Sims

Renault's Twizy Z.E. concept car won't hit the streets until later next year, but will be virtually available on Electronic Arts's The Sims 3 this spring. Even the virtual world is going green. Electronic Arts (ERTS) is teaming up with Renault to bring electric cars toThe Sims 3 video game, the companies announced Monday.

For EA, a titan in video-game publishing, the electric vehicles will further boost the here-and-now look and feel of The Sims, its wildly popular virtual-world gaming franchise. But unfortunately for EA, the electric vehicles won't bring in more bucks for its struggling operations.

Under the exclusive multiyear agreement, EA will integrate Renault's Twizy Z.E. Concept Car into an electric-vehicle pack that gamers can download for free. That pack will also include software that will allow Sims 3 users to add solar panels and a windmill to their virtual digs.

Wanted: The Young and Idealistic

"Electric vehicles are going to appeal to younger, more socially conscious customers and especially early adopters," Stephen Norman, Renault Group's senior vice president of global marketing, said in a statement. "This is the heartland of The Sims 3 community and it thus provides a great innovative way to build the Renault Brand just ahead of the Renault range of affordable electric vehicles themselves."

Renault is gearing up to offer mass-production electric vehicles next year, but will make the cars virtually available in The Sims 3 game this spring.

EA, which developed The Sims franchise a decade ago, has garnered great success by allowing users to customize various aspects of their characters, from their hair to their clothes, as well as their behavior and the environment that surrounds them. Launched last summer, The Sims 3 became the best-selling PC game in 2009 and has already $2.5 billion in revenues, according to VentureBeat.

Can Virtual Green Help EA Make Money?

But the gaming publisher has been struggling through a rough patch for the past two years. Aside from The Sims, sales have fallen short of EA's expectations, forcing it to cut 17% of its workforce, or 1,500 folks, late last year.

And its problems aren't solely due to the economic meltdown of last year, nor to troubles within the gaming industry. EA's stock price fell from nearly $49 a share in late August of 2008 to around $15 four months later. It has remained largely comatose since then, bouncing between the high-teens to low-20s. That's a 60% fall from the end of August to today.

Meanwhile, EA's archrival, Activision Blizzard (ATVI), which makes the rock-band video game Guitar Hero, has seen its shares fall only 28%. But Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO), which was once an EA takeover target, has plunged 58% in the same time period.

As it labors to expand sales, EA could surely benefit if its efforts to go green virtually turn into real-world greenbacks.

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