Game Dev Tycoon is a brilliant game. It’s fun, it’s addictive, it’s time consuming, and it has a great sense of humor. Building on the equally great Kairosoft developed Game Dev Story for iOS and Android, Game Dev Tycoon presents the player with some general insights into the game development process, and the backstage workings of the gaming industry that we all know and love. Oh, and it’s also inadvertently funny too, sometimes.
Game Dev Tycoon tasks the player with taking control of a startup back in the early 1980s, and develop games. At the beginning, you are a one man team working out of your garage, developing low profile games for PC and Commodore. Your options for developing games are severely limited too, as you can only develop text based games, or games with very basic graphics, and even more basic sound, in a limited set of genres, and on limited topics.
Over time, you research new genres and new topics, you research better graphics and better sound, you research new game making techniques such as branching dialogs, multiplayer, online play, achievements, voice acting, non linear story telling, and more. You create your own game engines to make the best games possible. You move from making games for primitive PCs to more modern ones, and games for consoles as well. You learn to market your games and generate hype. You create your own franchises. You learn to target them at specific audiences and demographics. You attend E3, you expand your team slowly by recruiting even more developers.
And eventually, you make your own console. You hold your own expos and conventions. You develop your own digital distribution service. You expand into AAA game development. The amount of stuff you can do, and the exhaustiveness of the choice available to you, the player, as well as the game’s recapitulation of the last thirty years of gaming history, along with its guesses as to what comes next, are incredible. I’ve mentioned things in broad strokes up there. There’s more, so much more. Game Dev Tycoon is an incredibly expansive game, and one that, unlike many other sim games, demands player agency and involvement.
The main ‘story’ portion of the game is thirty years- from the advent of basic computer gaming to the release of the Nintendo Wuu, Microsoft’s mBox Bext, and Sony’s PlaySystem 4. You are still free to play after that, but there won’t be any more story events, and any new console releases, or the like, for example, have to come from you. Which is just as well, because once those thirty years end, you get full control of the game.
What’s even better is the numerous references to the real gaming industry that the game is peppered with. From the names of the systems above (in addition to others like GameSphere, Master V, and Nuu), to the names of the companies (Nivtendo, Vonny, Vena, and Gommodore), to the frequent, often hilarious market reports we get (Market analysis indicates that the Gommodore 64’s success means the end of other PC manufacturers; we are hesitant about how good console gaming will ever catch on), to the discreet posters and memorabilia of real games such as Meat Boy, Journey, and Pac-man that are discreetly packed away in your offices, it’s great. Game Dev Tycoon works as much as a virtual record of the gaming industry so far as it works at being a great sim.
Of course, there are problems. The Mac version is broken, for instance, and after your expansion into the largest office, it simply crashes, and cannot be played again, unless the game is uninstalled and all local file are deleted. There is, of course, the abovementioned fact that this is not a very original game, and in fact is simply building on an excellent base provided by Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story. There is also the matter of the game’s sound and graphics, which are passable at best.
But on the whole, this is an incredible game, one that you will find yourself playing a lot, and for hours and hours and hours at a time. It’s great fun, it’s a wonderful commentary on the state of game development, and it’s just addictive as hell. For $8, you really cannot go wrong with Game Dev Tycoon, and this is a game that is heavily recommended to everybody.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Highly addictive, staggering depth and array of options, hours and hours of great gameplay, really great sense of humor, funny commentary on the state of the games industry and game development
Derivative, graphics and sound are fairly mediocre, a range of bugs (including a game breaking one in the Mac version)