The latest update from The Sims team includes another development on the game that's currently codenamed Project Rene, which we're calling The Sims 5 in the meantime. Importantly, Maxis confirms that the next major Sims game will be free-to-play and that its base game will include more features than The Sims 4 did at launch, thank goodness.
During the Project Rene update segment, Sims creative VP Lyndsay Pearson confirms what was implied by a job posting in June: that the next Sims game will be free to download. Pearson elaborates that you'll be able to play Project Rene "without a subscription, without core game purchase, or energy mechanics."
After the rumor that the next Sims game would be free to play, I'd speculated that there could be a subscription model in our future, but it sounds like that isn't the current plan, at least. It also won't be using the common mobile game monetization strategy of limiting daily playtime with energy meters and microtransactions. Instead, Pearson says that Project Rene will lean on DLC game packs as we're already used to in The Sims 4.
"Beyond regular updates to the core game, we will sell content and packs," Pearson says. "It definitely won't start with everything you have in The Sims 4, but we're going to add new experiences and content to Project Rene over time."
Pearson brings up the concept of seasons as an example—though I'd warn fellow hopefuls this is all carefully couched in hypothetical language—saying that Project Rene might include "basic weather" in the base game free for everyone with a for-purchase pack focused on winter sports. That's great. Now say pets and all life stages are included in the base game too, eh?
There's also a mention of possible "large scale early access options" for Project Rene, though I imagine that's several years away yet. Pearson has been describing development on the next Sims game as still quite early and exploratory, even though we know there have been private playtests going on. Bigger public tests will likely have to wait.
Interestingly, Pearson also mentions that Project Rene and The Sims 4 (and the Sims Mobile) "will coexist for the foreseeable future." And that it isn't meant to replace current Sims experiences. It already seemed unlikely that Maxis would actually title the next game The Sims 5, the way it's been talked about so far, but this does further emphasize that the next major Sims game will differ from the previous numbered games in some way despite sounding, from all we've heard, very much like a core Sims series experience (plus multiplayer).
You can read the full breakdown of the Behind the Sims presentation over on The Sims website for more on an upcoming cooking-themed pack for The Sims 4 and some Sims Mobile updates.