The Sims 2 charges you with guiding virtual people through nearly every minute detail of their simulated, suburban lives, ranging from when to use the bathroom to who to marry. But one task that has always been a big, black hole in Maxis' suburban-lifestyle simulation is work. Yes, your sims can flourish in a multitude of job paths, becoming filthy, stinking rich in the process, but the actual work is purely theoretical, and you never see them lift a finger. Open for Business, the third expansion pack for The Sims 2, adds an entrepreneurial edge to the action, letting you start your own business. Putting your sims to work may not sound initially enthralling, but Open for Business makes the daily grind plenty engaging, with the same quirky flair that series fans know and love.
All you need to start your own business is a phone, an open/close sign, and possibly a cash register, the latter two of which represent just a few of the new items that Open for Business introduces. You can use your sim's house phone or computer to start up the business, hire employees, and buy and sell real estate. If you're starting a fresh sim, though, you might opt to first run your business out of the home, since buying and operating a commercial lot can be expensive. The open/close sign makes it easy to call in and send away customers and employees, and the cash register is necessary if you're in the business of selling goods, though there are plenty of businesses that can be done without one.
Once you've established your business, you're going to need to decide what you're in the business of, exactly. If you choose to buy and sell goods, you'll go into a modified version of the "Buy" mode, which allows you to purchase any available item in the sim catalog at a wholesale price, and then sell it for a markup. There are some items that you can sell that you cannot buy from the catalog, such as toys, robots, and floral bouquets. To acquire these items, you'll need to purchase special workstations for your place of business. You can also choose to offer a service, such as a beauty salon or a bar. Lastly, you can create a business that charges people simply for being there. Best of all, none of these business models are mutually exclusive, and you can mix and match as you please, making your lifelong dream of opening a disco/hair salon/electronics store a virtual reality!
The success of your business hinges on a lot of different factors. Open for Business introduces a whole slew of new business-related skills for you to develop, from restocking shelves to sales, and the proficiency of you and your employees in these various fields will greatly impact how your customers receive you. You'll want to keep an eye out for your employees, too, since their moods can affect business, and if you've got a sim that's slacking off on its duties or taking too many breaks, you'd better fire them snap quick.
The game employs a new star system to signify customer satisfaction. As the star rating of your establishment increases, not only will you notice an influx of business, but also you'll get special business perks, which can range from an instant boost in all of your relationships to deep discounts on merchandise you buy. A successful business has value beyond the physical attributes of its location, and you can sell off a solid operation for a tidy profit, making it possible to bankroll bigger and better businesses. Virtually any commercial lot in the game, including many of the lots found in the two prior expansion packs for The Sims 2, can be purchased.
Additionally, your sims don't need to be old enough to hold down a job to make a couple extra simoleans for the family. One of the new items introduced in Open for Business is a lemonade stand, which you can plunk right on your front lawn. The attraction of your delicious wares to passersby is largely based on how much you charge, though selling rancid lemonade probably won't help boost business.
Part of what makes Open for Business so strategically interesting is that running your own business doesn't preclude you from having a regular career path. Seasoned players of The Sims will know that time management is one of the key skills you'll need to cultivate healthy, well-rounded sims. Between the time spent at a career, maintaining the household, and cultivating social ties with other sims, there are hardly enough hours in the day for a sim to take on a second job. Thankfully, and rather arbitrarily, time spent on a commercial lot doesn't equate to time spent at home. What this means is that you can come home from your day job, go to your store and work a full shift, and be back home in time for supper. Though a regular career will initially provide a better steady income than self-employment, you don't necessarily need a regular career in order to support your sims. Another perk of owning your own business is that you get to make your own hours. If you're too darn busy on a particular day, you can simply choose not to open up shop. In fact, you can go on an extended hiatus from your own business without any kinds of repercussions--a little unrealistic but helpful in keeping your business from becoming overly stressful.
The Sims 2 looks and sounds as good as it ever has in Open for Business. The myriad of new items that you can buy--there are 125 new items in all--make it easy to build a business with its own unique look and style. The new animations that go along with your business-related activities all do a great job of conveying the task at hand, and some of them can be quite hilarious--watch as customers sob after you give them a terrible new haircut or snap after a sales-sim pushes them too far.
The new simlish that goes along with all of these antics fits as well, though more interesting is the addition of a New Wave radio station. Like the people on all of the other radio stations in The Sims 2, everyone here speaks the made-up language of simlish, but on the New Wave station, they happen to be real bands and real songs. Depeche Mode, Kajagoogoo, Howard Jones, and The Epoxies each rerecorded one of their songs for Open for Business. All of the new music is catchy, and though the feature whiffs mildly of marketing synergy, it is nothing short of surreal when you hear David Gahan singing a song off Depeche Mode's latest album in simlish.
Open for Business operates as advertised--your sims can own and operate their very own businesses, running them as they see fit. The suite of activities that goes along with being self-employed is well-varied and open-ended in the true spirit of The Sims, and the lives of these virtual people seem that much less abstract because of it. Open for Business makes the already-addictive formula of The Sims 2 that much more compelling, so the game is almost a sure thing for established fans.