30,000 people are playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 on Steam. That’s more than Artifact, Valve’s new card game, and giants like Garry’s Mod, The Witcher 3, and Football Manager. It might seem like an anomaly, but anyone who’s spent any time in this sim’s recreation of Europe will understand completely.

Czech developer SCS Software released Euro Truck Simulator back in 2012, and the game has since developed a cult following—including several members of the PC Gamer team. But why? Well, fundamentally, because it’s good. It has satisfying driving physics, a vast, atmospheric map and a peaceful, stress-free way about it that you can easily lose an entire evening to. Fans of the game often describe it as hypnotic, and it really is.

But as the small development team added the finishing touches to its new game, it didn’t even know if it would break even. “When we first released Euro Truck Simulator 2 into the world we weren’t even sure it would be popular enough to cover the cost of development,” explains Pavel Šebor of SCS. “The scale of the game was much bigger than anything we’d ever attempted before, which made its development feel like a huge risk for us.”

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“We’d created a few other truck sims before, so we had a lot of passion and experience to put into it. A few weeks after launch we were surprised by its popularity—and not just among fans of hardcore driving sims. People were excited and already asking for more! And six years later we’re still supporting and developing it. It’s by far our most-played game.”

Part of what makes ETS2 so compelling is the fine balance it strikes between being a simulation and being fun and accessible. Not to mention the variety of ways to play, from simply enjoying a road trip to building an empire. “At the time of release, this combination was quite rare in simulator games. Some of our players enjoy exploring the world; some like customising and tuning their trucks; many enjoy the rags-to-riches aspect of building their trucking company up from one small garage to a huge logistics operation.”

One of the more surprising outcomes of ETS2’s success is that it has become, entirely accidentally, a sort of propaganda for the trucking industry. “Truck manufacturers don’t see us necessarily as a marketing opportunity for them, but more like a stepping stone into the industry. They also sometimes tell us that our game makes the job look like a cool adventure, and that is, of course, very desirable to the transportation industry in general.”

And while you’d think the last thing a truck driver would want to do after a week on the road is do it virtually on their PC at home, you’d be surprised. “Whenever we’re on the road, travelling and meeting people at expos, we get a lot of truck drivers stopping by and telling us that they love the game. Even the younger generation, who are learning to be drivers or aspire to learn one day, say it’s an inspiration for them. Someone who recently learned to drive trucks in real life told us that our game actually helped them ace their manoeuvring test, and hearing that is very satisfying for our team.”

By now, most developers would have cashed in on the surprise success of their game by releasing a sequel, but SCS has resisted so far. I ask Šebor why this is. “Euro Truck Simulator 2 has become such a long-term platform for us that we have never really made any commitment to making a third game. But if we did ever want to make a new one, we’d have to do it from scratch to justify it, and improve on everything we have currently. But we don’t have the time or the team size for such a venture at the moment.”

Instead, SCS is staying relevant by steadily improving the game. “We’re constantly working on new features, and we’re always upgrading the engine, assets, physics and scenery. We also have a lot of common requested features including seasons, more varied weather, and multiplayer.” You can play Euro Truck Simulator 2 online now thanks to the remarkable TruckersMP mod, although it has a few drawbacks, namely the roads being completely devoid of traffic. So it would be good to see an official multiplayer mode from SCS itself.

“Euro Truck Simulator 2 was a crucial factor in making SCS Software what it is today. In the beginning we were a small team, loyal to making great truck sims, but now there are over 140 of us. But even so, we still don’t have enough manpower to take advantage of all the ideas we have. We also want to thank the fans who have been by our side from the very start, and through many years of development. We hope this is just the start, and we hope to become bigger, better, smarter and faster when it comes to making games.”