It's one of the most successful videogames in history - so successful, in fact, that publisher Electronic Arts has an entire business unit devoted to it. It propelled creator Will Wright from geek hero to media darling, and earned him a reputation as the medium's Spielberg. Yet for Tim LeTourneau, The Sims has one glaring problem.
"The Sims is a phenomenal game - I spent a lot of my career working on The Sims - but it's limited in one specific place," he muses. "The Sims are only Sims within their world. Taken and isolated by themselves, they're just generic videogame characters."
In simple terms, then, "They're not iconic. I mean, name your favourite Sim? That's the easiest thing to ask, and people are obviously hard-pressed to do that. It's a game where you're creating most of the Sims, you're the storyteller... It's just not easy to take them out of that environment."
These days, LeTourneau is executive producer on the MySims franchise - a spin-off of The Sims which was designed to fill that gap. The idea was appeal to a whole new audience as well as provide something new for dedicated Sims fans to try.
We're chatting to him in a posh hotel suite just moments away from Buckingham Palace, so it's perhaps appropriate that the game playing in the background is MySims Kingdom. The second outing for MySims is a whole new experience, an entirely different type of game built around the same cast of characters as the first title. It sees you embarking on an adventure around an island kingdom, fulfilling quests for a somewhat bonkers king with your magical powers of construction.
The very phrase "cast of characters" is an apt illustration of how far the MySims apple has fallen from the tree. Filled with a cast of charming, unusual characters, MySims has achieved something which no EA-developed game has ever managed before - it's a true character franchise, with easily a dozen instantly recognisable and entertaining characters who liven up the game.
"One of the things we wanted to do with MySims was to create characters that people could engage with, and really get to know," LeTourneau explains. "We wanted a cast of characters, so you could ask people who their favourite MySims character was - and they might say, 'Oh, I love Chef Gino!', or 'I like Vincent Skullfinder,' or 'Violet is my favourite!'
"They can point to a particular character. They know their personality, they know what they're about, they know what they look like visually. They can really make that connection."
(For what it's worth, our personal favourite MySim is Vic Vector, who runs an arcade and spends the first MySims game demanding that you build him an assortment of awesome furniture and classic arcade cabinets. He's our kind of guy.)
With its cute characters and simplified controls, MySims does risk being dismissed as "The Sims but for kids" - an entirely unfair characterisation, not least since the game actually offers a profoundly different experience to The Sims. In fact, for gamers, MySims is arguably pretty appealing - unlike the open-ended, somewhat directionless play of The Sims, MySims continually keeps you challenged with new things to do and new areas to explore.
"MySims was never intended to be Sims Junior," confirms LeTourneau. "It was a case of, hey, what if we made a game that was specifically targeted at Nintendo platforms? What would that game be? We could have very easily just made a Sims game on those platforms - we have a console version of The Sims. This was really an opportunity to step back and say, what would that game be? How do you make a game that feels like it's at home on Nintendo platforms, that it lives there? People need to see it and think, that looks like a Nintendo-type game."
Erik Zwerling, who's producing the port of MySims to the PC - complete with new multiplayer features - chips in.
"MySims was originally created in order to come up with a game that would be successful on consoles, particularly Nintendo consoles, as well as in territories where The Sims wasn't as popular," he explains. "That was particularly Japan and Asia, where the Sims was seen as being too western - it didn't really take off there.
"The goal was to come up with something that would be more attractive to those consoles and those territories. MySims was the outcome of that. Other franchises like Mario and Sonic aren't necessarily kids' games - they have all-age appeal - but they have some of those Asian, Japanese tendencies."
Creating a character-driven game and using Asian inspiration for much of the artwork helped MySims to achieve that objective. "When MySims originally came out, one of the best compliments that the dev team got was that the territories we were aiming for loved the game, and actually thought it was created in Japan," Zwerling says. "They didn't think it was a western game."
Building this Asian-themed, Nintendo-style game, however, has had a knock-on effect on more than just the sales of MySims in Japan. LeTourneau takes over the narrative once again.
"For us, is was liberating in many ways," he enthuses. "It lets you go back and say, hey - this playing field is completely different. We have a very focused, targeted idea of what we can do and what we can accomplish. Let's go do it specifically for these platforms."
"So, from the very beginning, it was a different franchise. It was never intended to be just part of The Sims - it's part of the Sims Label, but the Sims Label isn't just about The Sims. It's about games that encourage creativity, community, humour - and that can lead to a tremendous amount of variety."
One thing that LeTourneau is keen to emphasise about MySims Kingdom is that it's not - emphatically not - MySims 2. Rather than a town-building game, this is an adventure game where your construction powers are used to solve puzzles and complete quests - the same characters, the same art style, but a very different experience. So why take such a radically different direction, if they were happy with MySims in the first place? Not that we're complaining, but it does seem a little odd...
LeTourneau responds without hesitation. "Can I make a better game about building furniture? Probably not. That was the goal... And I don't mean that in a negative way at all! The goal of MySims was that we wanted a game where the player feels like they're building a little town, that they've built it from the ground up. Not only are they building the houses but they're building everything inside it. Everything you see is built.
"Can I do that better? Sure, I could probably find ways to make that better. But I think MySims is a great game. I'd rather take the characters and say, here's a completely different MySims experience. If you want that open-ended creativity, you should just go and buy MySims - it's an awesome game.
"Here's a completely different experience with MySims, which you can get just as engaged with, and as engrossed with. I'd much rather do that."
Both MySims Kingdom (Wii/DS) and MySims (PC) are out in October.