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A farm equipment manufacturing company from West Point, P.E.I. could soon be shouldering up to industry giants like John Deere, New Holland and Grimme in a farming simulator video game.
H.F. Stewart and Sons Ltd. has signed on as a future partner with Giants Software, maker of the Farming Simulator video game franchise.
Zach Stewart, business development manager with H.F. Stewart, said the partnership will feature the company’s potato bin piler to start out.
“Future partnership just means we’re going to be in the game," Stewart explained. He said the bin piler could be added as downloadable content (DLC) for the current game, or become part of the game’s next new release.
H.F. Stewart is the first company in Atlantic Canada to have its equipment make it into the game.
Farming Simulator, Stewart said, is one of the most popular video games in the simulator genre, with more than two million copies of its latest version, Farming Simulator 19, sold worldwide.
“So, it’s a video game anybody can play, as long as they have a computer, a PlayStation or Xbox,” explained Stewart, who was introduced to the game as a youth and still owns a copy.
“The whole premise of the game is you start with a small farm and old equipment and you farm your fields and grow your crops to build up and buy more land and bigger and better equipment.”
Giants Software is based in Zurich, Switzerland. In the beginning, the video game featured primarily European farming equipment, but it has since broadened its reach to North American equipment.
Stewart said he reached out to the franchise about three-and-a-half years ago to see what the possibilities might be.
“They wanted me to send them some pictures of what we do and how our equipment works and, from there, they took an interest in it.”
They requested 3D designs and high-quality images of the equipment.
H.F. Stewart subsequently reached out to a customer that had purchased one of their bin pilers and took photos from every angle that Giants Software wanted.
Stewart is happy with the way the product turned out. The farming operation unveiled a mini version of the game during the recent International Potato Technology Expo in Charlottetown. Stewart said he was pleased with the response from both children and adults.
“A lot of people were pretty surprised that a P.E.I. company was going to be in the game and there was a lot of interest.”
But to H.F. Stewart, a company that employs 17 people in West Point and ships all over Atlantic Canada, into Ontario and Quebec and limited amounts into the United States, this is much more than a game.
Stewart sees it as an important marketing tool, as well.
“It was something cool we played as kids and, now, just to have your name recognized when people start to think of names in farming simulators...” he marvelled.
"My two boys play it daily before all this even started," said Sandy Stewart, who owns the West Point manufacturing company with his brother Stephen. "So I’m on there, and they're trying to teach me how to do it."
"I’m not a gamer," he confessed, "But I see the importance of it."
The company owner said getting into the game is a means of attracting possible future farmers who are playing the video game.
"It’s all over the world so, little ol’ P.E.I., we’re getting recognized across the world now," Sandy said.
Just like in actual farming, there are challenges to overcome in the game. For instance, Zach Stewart said players will need to make sure their bin piler is on level ground. Otherwise, it might not stabilize properly.
“They wouldn’t want to roll it. That would be not good for their virtual farm business,” he noted.
“If it goes well, we would hope to see our bulk box and some more conveyors and stuff like that we build added to the game – just a wider variety of our equipment that people could see and kind of play with, in a different way,” Zack Stewart added.
If the exposure results in more orders for equipment, well, he said the company is ready to respond.
“They did a really great job. If you zoom in close enough in the game on some of the parts, you can see the part number if you need to order more parts.” The company's logo and their phone number are also clearly visible.