During the recent DICE Summit in Las Vegas, Civilization designers from all eras of the game, including Bruce Shelley, Sid Meier, Brian Reynolds, and Soren Johnson, got together for a panel to discuss the game’s history. The Civilization series has sold approximately 33 million copies to date as of its 25th anniversary (including 8 million copies of 2010’s Civilization V). Additionally, over 1 billion hours of the game have been played across all 66 versions since its debut in 1991.
“We felt the game was fun. There was no game like this. We could break new ground and make it work. There was a hint that strategy might be something cool. Beyond railroads, what was an epic topic for simulation? We wanted to end up with something big. What about the history of Civilization? We were inspired by SimCity with god games. The core was a number of simple systems: economic, combat, growth. Everything was understandable on its own. Once it all interacted, the decisions for the player became very interesting.”
Sid Meier credited the franchise’s continued popularity to the community support.
“So many of their ideas and energy has gone into the game. Brian introduced the idea of modding into Civ II, and the game took off. Something about Civ seems to bring out the game designer in people. We would get letters, with fans saying ‘This is what i would change about it.'”
— Sid Meier
Reynolds’ original prediction for how well the game would sell was 38,000 copies. Now, of course, it has beaten that number many times over, something Reynolds attributes to the game’s use of history to empower the player.
“The whole arc of human history and you get to be the ruler. We would sneak in actual history, and play on the things people already knew about history. It goes to a common history we all have and the core desire to rule it all.”
— Brian Reynolds