The incredibly successful Sims franchise is set to take a new direction on console platforms, with EA today revealing details of Maxis' next console title, The Urbz, which is expected to launch towards the end of this year.

The new game - which will appear on PS2, Cube and Xbox, with a GBA title of the same name also planned - will place the Sims in a large urban environment, with the player challenged to build the reputation of their Sims in the city.

As the name suggests, the game features a strong "urban culture" theme, and as well as a new graphics engine for displaying city environments, a brand new image customisation system will allow players to create unique characters and attire them with, er, "bling" such as nose rings and tattoos.

The game will also support the EyeToy peripheral on the PS2, allowing players to download their own image into the game. This will be the second EA title to utilise the EyeToy - June's Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban being the first - and Maxis is expected to show a demonstration of the functionality at E3 this year.

The Urbz is currently scheduled for a Q4 2004 launch on all console platforms. The PC, of course, will be seeing The Sims 2 at around the same time - with its ship date currently scheduled for September. No console version of The Sims 2 has yet been announced, and the implication from EA is that The Urbz will fill that role, although obviously a port of the PC title to a console platform at some point in the future has not been ruled out.