Why are those simulator games so popular? You know the ones

Have you ever wondered why the hell simulator games seem so popular?! I have.

Strap yourselves in for the most incredible AAA title of 2016...Bus Simulator! Okay just kidding, but seriously, why on Earth are these niche simulator games so popular? It just doesn't make sense.

Allow me to try and answer this question, as well as explain to you why I think most, if not all, simulator games suck. Bear in mind I am talking purely about sim games like Truck Simulator, Flight Simulator, Train Simulator, etc - not games like The Sims. 

If you're a fan of the simulator genre then fair enough, I am certainly not going to begrudge anyone for liking a specific gaming genre. However, I am definitely not one of you, myself. For me, a game is a release from reality, an experience that can help you escape from a mundane day to day lifestyle with an engrossing story or a fun multiplayer experience. The last thing I want to do is play a game that drags you back into the 'real' world and frankly, simulators do exactly that.

Simply put, they are so bloody boring.

With the release of Bus Simulator's launch trailer (see above), I was wondering just what makes simulator games popular. You always see them being churned out year after year, to such an extent that games were created with the entire purpose of making a mockery out of the genre. Goat Simulator was a hilarious fad, made famous by numerous, prominent YouTuber's, causing it to go viral. The same could be said of Surgeon Simulator and I can understand their popularity as these two examples are so bad that they are good. 

PewDiePie's GS series has gained a combined total view count of around 68 million! 

This has led me to believe that the main reason simulators are in any way popular is because these internet personalities make ironic videos of these games - this in turn causes thousands of people to go and buy them, simply for a laugh, i.e. to see how bad the games really are. 

I would argue that no-one can truly think these games are any good at all. The graphics are certainly not ground breaking, the controls are usually clunky and frustrating and as I said before the gameplay is incredibly dull! There are, however, some people who genuinely enjoy playing these games.

A quick Google search led me to Reddit, which in turn led me to a Gamasutra article from 2013. They asked the question 'Who was buying these games?' and found out that the genre was popular with the 8-12 and 35+ age groups, but there was very little enthusiasm from anyone else. There is no way that the age groups mentioned above are prominent enough to create a stable economy for game developers who create the Farming Simulators of this world. 

Apparently, many people like a relaxed gaming experience and I can understand this to a certain extent, but not enough to sway my opinion that these games are terrible. There are plenty of games that can provide a similar but far more interesting and immersive experience - Elite: Dangerous is a space sim game that does this exceptionally well.

I am not the only one that thinks this either. An article posted on Kotaku in 2014 addressed the same thing. It is now 2016 and new sim games are still being produced. If you can think about a normal everyday job, that involves a vehicle, then there is probably a simulator game for it. As the article states, it's getting out of hand.

To sum this little rant up, I firmly believe that it is YouTube's influence that makes these games popular. YouTubers will continue to make videos because making a mockery out of the genre makes views and thus money. These games are not good, they are simply the product of a system that is based on people buying the games as a joke. This naturally makes the developers money and gives them an incentive to keep producing new sims.

What are your thoughts on these niche sim games? Do you love them or do you agree with me and never touch them? Let me know in the comments!


Alec, 26, from the UK. Graduated from university with a degree in War Studies. I love playing video games (obviously), writing about them and achievement hunting. My favourite game ever is TESIV: Oblivion. In my spare time I play golf and clay pigeon shoot. Feel free to follow me on Instagram: @theealecp

Published Feb. 24th 2016
  • Dustin Frisch
    I like Eurotruck Simulator and may even get Bus Simulator.
  • Mathenaut
    There is a niche market for these sim games. It's small, but the community takes it's hobby very seriously and is willing to invest heavily in it.

    I don't understand why these articles don't reach out to gamers and ask what draws them to these games. Don't be like Kotaku.
  • Alec Pearce
    Funny you should mention that because something I didn't mention in the article (perhaps I should have) was that Eurotruck simulator is popular with real life truckers.

    Some Reddit users mentioned that they liked the laid back gaming experience as well. But yes I agree a first hand account would have been beneficial to the article as a whole, in retrospect.
  • Ashley Shankle
    Associate Editor
    "There is a niche market for these sim games. It's small, but the community takes it's hobby very seriously and is willing to invest heavily in it."

    Pretty much this. These studios mostly survive off enthusiast "whales" who either purchase the additional content packs that fit in their realm of interest in that sim (types of trains, etc.), or all of them because they're so big into it.

    Hell, I have a friend who's pro at CS:GO who plays the Farm Simulator games when he's stressed out. A few of our mutual friends poked fun at him at first, but he explained it and it's pretty understandable.

    The silly sim games are a bit confusing, like Goat Simulator, but those games have their demographic among kids thanks to LPers and the "lol so random" aspect of them.
  • Mathenaut
    Goat Simulator was meant to take the piss out on sim games in general, then got a cult following because hit the bullseye with the theme. Stupid/silly can be fun when it's done right. It usually isn't, but Goat Sim got it.

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