It plays similarly to The Sims 2 but is based on The Sims 3 assets. While mainline Sims titles use their own clock, The Sims Freeplay uses a real-time strategy based on games like FarmVille. Due to this, unlike the main series, it can take real-world hours to do simple tasks. While the game is free-to-play, they actually managed to alleviate the microtransactions criticism by finding a happy medium between the Farmville formula and single player gaming (the in game currency, the Simoleon, is easy to get, and Life Points can be earned from watching ads, hitting certain achievements, or even just completing tasks, instead of through exclusively buying them with real cash, and the wait time between actions is actually reasonable compared to many other games out in the market).
The game started out very basic, but thanks to regular updates it now includes various things such as more clothes, children, new activities, etc. The game is now in its eighth year and have seen dozens of updates and new contents- many available for free or via regular Simoleons if you completed the given tasks in a limited time before becoming only available via Life Points. The game is the third game in the Sims franchise to require an online connection to play. The Sims Online and The Sims Social were the previous two.
The Sims Freeplay contains examples of:
- Adaptation Name Change: The "Child" stage is renamed to "Pre-Teens" and "Elders" is renamed to "Seniors".
- Ad Reward: Tjhere's a billboard on the town map where you can watch ads in exchange for for Lifestyle Points and other ingame currencies.
- Allegedly Free Game: The game will shove you 30-45 second video ads at least after three interactions. After that you got random bonuses from money, life points, to actions completing instantly. To remove those ads, you have to purchase VIP 3, which is equivalent to at least $15 (with discounts!)
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: Or at least shortening the commute. Simoleons and Life Points are the main way you can circumvent the Freemium Timer and, of course, you can buy both with real world money.
- Fairy Companion: In the form of pet fairies.
- Freemium Timer: A lot of the gameplay actions have cooldown timers that runs real-time can be sped up using Lifestyle Points.
- G-Rated Sex: Update V5 12.0 added in the "Woo-Hoo" option, which, like in all Sims titles, is what sex is referred to.
- Holiday Mode: The game sometimes features events themed around upcoming or current holidays, such as the "Ghost Hunting Event" in October 2012 and "The Missing X-Mas Elves" in December 2013.
- In-Universe Game Clock: Unlike most other titles, Freeplay uses a real-time clock. In most games, 1 minute in-game is the equivalent of 1 real-life second. In Freeplay 1 minute takes literally 1 minute unless you use Simoleons to get past that. This real-time clock system originated from the Nintendo DS version of The Sims 2.
- Literal Soapbox Speech: Assigning your Sim to a soapbox in the park allows him or her to make a speech.
- Mundane Made Awesome: After competing almost any task, the screen blows up in Simoleons and your character does a little flip
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Initially babies couldn't age, but future updates added in the ability to age up several stages.
- One-Gender Race: All the pet fairies seem to be female.
- Premium Currency: The Lifestyle Points, which can be earned from reaching certain skill level at a particular hobby, watching ads or bought with real money, are required for buying premium items and speeding up certain tasks.
- Sapient Pet: One of the pets you buy from a pet store is, get this, fairies. And not animalistic or inhuman ones either, just stock fully-sapient fairies.
- Spiritual Successor: To the mobile version of The Sims 3, to the point that the former is basically the demo version to The Sims Freeplay.
- Stupidity Is the Only Option: For quite a while, a random event could pop up which required a player to either commit an immoral act (like, say, embezzling money) which the game itself would certainly punish the character for, or pay a prohibitively high amount of a currency a player would never be able to earn in-game and would thus have to pay real-world cash to acquire. There was no way to get rid of the "Choice" as it would reappear whenever the game was started. Needless to say, many players refused to pay ''or'' behave immorally, and instead realized they'd rather just quit playing the game entirely until they finally put in an option to walk away, which took years.
- Vocal Evolution: Inverted. Most likely due to it being a mobile game, the Sims don't have the range of noises they make in most titles of the game. It's more akin to The Sims.
- You Require More Vespene Gas: Simoleons are treated this way.