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Harvest Moon farm-life sim celebrates 20th anniversary with its first-ever PC game

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It’s the 20th anniversary of Natsume, Inc.’s Harvest Moon, and for the first time, the iconic farming simulator will be coming to PC with Harvest Moon: Light of Hope.

In its long history, Harvest Moon has been available on a variety of platforms, starting with Super Nintendo and releasing on all Nintendo and Sony consoles thereafter. Though Light of Hope is the first time Harvest Moon is for the PC, developer and publisher Natsume’s first PC launch will be Wild Guns Reloaded later this year.

Much like Sega’s strategy to bring its IPs to PC, Natsume is increasing the number of platforms its games are on in order to reach a bigger market, though it’s still absent from Microsoft’s Xbox consoles. This could be because the PC market is comparable to the console games market; in 2016, console games generated $35 billion in revenue counting games, services, and hardware, while PC games generated $34 billion without being bolstered by hardware sales. The mobile games market is the largest, generating $41 billion in sales in 2016, up from previous years.

“We’re focusing on expanding our frontiers: Harvest Moon for Switch, Harvest Moon for Steam, Harvest Moon for PS4, Harvest Moon for Mac, and Harvest Moon for mobile, and any platforms yet to come,” said CEO Hiro Maekawa in an interview with GamesBeat at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last week. “That’s what we’re heading for. Reel Fishing is the project we’re working on after Harvest Moon. We’re expanding that game to Switch and PS4 and Steam.”

In addition to PC, it’s also launched games on mobile, including the recent Harvest Moon: Lil’ Farmers, which shipped in May for iOS and Android. Developed by Natsume in conjunction with Daredevil Development, Lil’ Farmers is a pared-down version of the game aimed at a younger audience, focusing on taking care of farm animals, growing crops, and selling your harvest at a small shop.

Maekawa said that in its various incarnations, the most important thing for the franchise is to stick to its core concept. “Maintaining the Harvest Moon universe — nonviolent, family-friendly, built around this concept that hard-working people should be rewarded for what they’ve done — each time the storyline changes, but those basic things are the same,” said Maekawa.

In a hands-on demo at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last week in Los Angeles, Light of Hope was pretty much what you’d expect from a Harvest Moon game. The main mechanics are farming, fishing, and developing friendships and romances with the villagers, couched in the context of trying to bring a sleepy port town back to life. Like in Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, which launched in 2014 for the Nintendo 3DS, all the tools are context-sensitive so that you don’t have to open your inventory to select the axe if you’re standing next to a tree you want to chop. It’s more of the same, which Maekawa said is based on customer feedback about simply wanting a Harvest Moon game to play on their console of choice.

Asked about games that were clearly inspired by Harvest Moon, such as Eric Barone’s Stardew Valley, Maekawa was supportive of more farming simulator games.

“It’s a good thing that there are several farming simulations sold to users and consumers. They have several choices,” Maekawa said. “Not only that, but that means we can expand the genre of farming simulations. That’s good for the game industry in general. That’s my way of thinking.”

Light of Hope will be available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4 at a date to be announced, and Harvest Moon Lil’ Farmers is currently available on iOS and Android.

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