Game Dev Tycoon

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Game Dev Tycoon on Steam (demo available here)

MSRP: $9.99

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Release: 8/29/13


In the nineties, you could be a tycoon of just about anything you could think of.  It was a business sim explosion, which resulted in some really fantastic games, and some really really awful ones. There was resurgence of these games in 2004 & 2005 and most of those were just terrible.  Having been burned by the word tycoon in the title a few too many times, I tend to shy away from tycoon games now.

I am so so so glad I made an exception for the really fantastic Game Dev Tycoon.  There are a million ways this could have gone so horribly wrong, but this game has managed to avoid most of the giant pitfalls and just put in the aspects that make a really solid and enjoyable business sim.

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Working out of your garage in the 80s, you start building and releasing games.  There’s a good amount of depth to consider right from the beginning; you need to choose a topic, a genre, a platform, and a game engine.  Then you need to decide how to allocate your resources among three different facets of the game during three separate stages of development.  There’s a lot here, and it’s kind of lingo intensive – I’m still not entirely sure what some of the terminology really means and what’s vital for what genres, but Game Dev Tycoon gives you plenty of tools to learn.

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As you progress, the complexity continues to increase.  There are more things to research, and you’ll need to create custom game engines.  You also have to make decisions about whether or not you think it’ll be worthwhile to ante up for rights to publish on different platforms, and whether or not you want to do marketing and find a publisher.  Once you have a million dollars cash in hand, you can move into your own office and hire staff, and when you start building larger games, you’ll have to make the decision of who works on what based on their skill metrics.

There are, of course, some sacrifices in the department of realism for the sake of game play.  No matter how successful your products are, no game stays on the market forever, but the game lets you know when a previously created title is no longer being sold.  If you’re familiar with gaming at all (and if you’re not, how did you find this blog, exactly?), you should be able to – for the most part – make logical decisions about which topics and genres to combine, and later on, what audiences to market those combinations to.

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Throughout the game, you’re trying to increase both your cash in hand and your fan base, while also trying to balance research, training, and game production all while avoiding burnout.  It’s likely you’ll go bankrupt on your first play through.  That’s okay, this feels like a game that’s meant to let you fail spectacularly and often so that when you do put out a best seller, it feels all the sweeter.

If you like business sims at all, this is a must buy. I usually need about 30 minutes of play time before I feel like I can start talking about most games – I played this for three times a long and didn’t even notice the time pass. It’s a charming game made by endearing devs that coded their appreciation for your purchase right into the game. I’ll be looking for their next project just so I can have an excuse to toss some more money their way.

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