When game maker Will Wright began looking for a publisher for a project called Micropolis, there wasn't a lot of interest.
The game, which was specifically designed so it couldn't be won (or lost), was so outside the box that virtually no one was willing to take a chance. That's when he found himself on the doorstep of a tiny publisher called Maxis. They decided to give it a shot.
One name change and 25 years later, we are celebrating the birthday of the great SimCity.
The city-building simulation caught the collective imagination of the gaming community when it was first released in October of 1989, ultimately giving birth to nearly 20 sequels and spin-off titles, including the biggest PC franchise ever, The Sims.
Born from Wright's realization that he was having more fun creating levels for his previous game - Raid on Bungeling Bay - than playing the game itself, SimCity has been named as one of the ten most important games of all time by The New York Times and PC World.
It had real-world implications, too. In 1993, Chevron commissioned Wright and Maxis to make a custom version of the game for them called SimRefinery, which helped new employees understand the ins and outs of the company's refineries and distribution system. The University of Southern California and the University of Arizona have even used the game in urban planning and political science classes.
That is a testament to SimCity is depth as a simulation. As the mayor/overseer of a fictional city, gamers need to keep an eye on the city's infastructure, ensuring that power is adequate, crime levels are low and tax rates are just right, while still dealing with unexpected disasters.
And what wonderful disasters the game offers! Floods and earthquakes were bad enough, but when Wright threw in giant monster attacks and tornadoes that could result in train crashes, the mayhem was too much to resist. Later games, like the beloved SimCity 2000, would build on this, adding extraterrestrial invasions and meteor strikes.
The series has had its ups and downs through the years. While The Sims went on to become the best-selling PC franchise of all time, other attempted tie-ins, like SimCopter and SimAnt, were only moderate successes. Maxis went all out trying to spin the formula into more hits, but Streets of SimCity, SimEarth, SimHealth (which simulated President Bill Clinton's healthcare reform proposals) and others never really caught on.
There's still a strong demand for the game, though. Even the 2013 version of SimCity, which earned an avalanche of bad reviews for its requirement that the game constantly be connected to the Internet, sold more than 2 million copies.