The games developers convention in Leipzig, Germany, has been used to announce that The Sims 3 is to be released world-wide on February 20th 2009.

Electronics Arts is also set to release a limited edition collectors version which will come complete with a Sims 'plumbob' logo USB drive, a virtual Italian sports car for in-game use and some exclusive stickers.

Even if you don't opt for the limited edition version of the game, Sims fans who pre-order might be able to get an in-game vintage sports car and a neighborhood map poster. I say 'might' because it depends upon the retailer you pre-order from apparently.

Every copy of The Sims 3 will feature a new games engine for more immersive play, in particular with regard to the new totally explorable neighborhood. The new engine will also impact upon how your character lives, with your actions having a knock on effect on the entire population within the game. In other words, more of a 'living' virtual world than players of The Sims 2 can experience.

The Sims avatar will be more customisable, with everything from body type to hair and skin tone being playable with.