Company in simulator game

Zach Stewart (left), who is business development manager for H.F. Stewart and co-owner Sandy Stewart demonstrate a prototype of a game called Farm Simulator that will soon feature a bin piler from the West Point company.

A farming simulator game that has sold over two million copies around the world will soon have a distinct PEI flavour.

A bin piler from H.F. Stewart in West Point will soon be available to players of the game to purchase virtually along with equipment from industry giants like John Deere. Zach Stewart, who is the business development manager for the family owned business, had a prototype of the game to show in the company's booth at the recent International Potato Technology Expo and he said it generated plenty of interest.

"We're pretty pumped," said Zach. "It is quite something to think somebody using the simulator on the other side of the world will soon be staring at our equipment."

Giants Software in Geneva, Switzerland has been releasing versions of the game since 2008 and currently has 12 released titles on 14 different platforms that focus on different commodities and aspects of the industry. The version that will featured the bin piler is due out later this year and will concentrate on the potato sector.

The simulator allows participants to run a virtual farm by purchasing equipment, planting crops or looking after livestock. Many of the users are gamers on platforms like YouTube or streaming services, as well as PlayStation or Xbox. Zach said the simulator is realistic and offers players a view of how a modern farm operates.

Stewart explained many of the earlier versions of the game were geared to more European style farming with a focus on cereal crops. He noted the company is now concentrating more on the North American market and the edition geared to potato farming is part of that. He said the exact release date should be known in a couple of months.

So how does a company in rural PEI hook up with a software giant? Believe it or not, Zach said Giant Software actually approached them. He added "they have been just incredible to work with even in how they are promoting us." For example, the company's presence at the Charlottetown potato show was advertised on Giant's social media network, again putting the company's name before millions of people.

The bin piler in the game will be emblazoned with the company name, phone number and website and Zach is hoping that will spur some players to find out more about them. He noted "they probably know the big equipment guys but we are hoping people are going to say "I never heard of H.F. Stewart before-- who are they?"

Co-owner Sandy Stewart said it is too soon to tell if their presence in the game will result in any sales but he quickly added "having your name seen by over two million people is never a bad thing", adding even just a small percentage of that market could be significant.

Both men said the company has proven geography is not a deterrent to doing business in the 21st century economy. As Sandy said "the world has suddenly become a small place."

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