Game Dev Tycoon has been around since 2012. It’s been on PC, Android and iOS, and now it’s finally available for Switch. I played it on PC a few years back and remember it being terribly addictive. Not much has changed in that regard. However, the game has been updated since I last played, adding new topics, additional story, as well as an improved, touch screen friendly interface.
The premise of Game Dev Tycoon is simple. You start out as a one-person ‘company’ in your garage in the 80s, developing games on your own. You can make basic games for PC and Govodore’s G64 computer. As time passes, new platforms will be released, following the timeline of real-life gaming history (including classics like the Super TES, DreamVast, Playsystem 2, mBox 360 and the Wuu), and you can buy licences to develop games for those.
Each game you create requires you to choose a topic (vampires, racing, construction, sci-fi, and dozens more), then a genre (strategy, RPG, action, and more). Some combinations work well together (fantasy/RPG or city/simulation) while others are, understandably, terrible (comedy/strategy or virtual pet/action). The only way to discover the best combinations is through educated guesses and trial and error. Fortunately, once you’ve completed at least one playthrough, the game gives you the option to import all the knowledge you gained in previous games to make it easier to remember the myriad combinations available.
Next you’ll choose a platform to publish the game on. It’s best to look at the popularity of the platform as well as how well it works for the genre you’ve chosen (strategy games work great on PC, but not so well on most consoles). Eventually, you can also target your games to certain audiences, with some working better than others (post-apocalyptic is not great for a young audience, but great for a mature one).
Game development is broken down into three phases. At each stage, you’ll have to decide where to focus your energy. RPG games benefit from a focus on story and dialogues, but world design or AI may be more important for other types of games. Once your team expands and you start creating bigger games, you’ll need to allocate specific people to different aspects of the game.
Once you finish a game, you can spend some time debugging it, then you’ll release it into the wild. Soon you’ll receive review scores, giving you an indication of the quality of the final product. You can also get your staff to generate a report to give more insights into what worked – or didn’t – for that particular game. Review scores are based on a variety of factors, such as the match between genre, topic, platform and target audience, as well as appropriate allocation of resources during development.
As you progress, you’ll be able to research new game topics to use, to keep things fresh for your customers, as well as new features to add to games. Eventually, you can develop your own custom game engines, allowing you to specify what options will be available to you as you create new games. You can research everything from voice-overs to branching stories to AI companions to orchestral soundtracks and better graphics. If you’re playing the more challenging pirate mode, you can research new methods of copy protection to encourage more people to actually buy your games.
Perhaps that strategy game doesn’t really need celebrity voice actors and a complex storyline after all.
Once your game goes on sale, you’ll earn some much-needed cash – especially if the game reviews well, allowing you develop new games, move to larger offices, hire more staff, train them up, get booths at the G3 event, and eventually even develop your own console or online distribution platform.
As time goes on, you’ll need to strive to make better and better games to keep raking in the profit. Using the same genre/topic combination repeatedly is a good way to lose money, and while you’ll want to try to stuff as many fancy features as you can into every game, you’ll eventually be forced to pick and choose the best features for a particular game. Perhaps that strategy game doesn’t really need celebrity voice actors and a complex storyline after all.
The game ‘ends’ and gives you a score after 35 years, but you can keep playing after that. There just won’t be any new consoles released. However, there are so many options to research and so many combinations to try that I never felt that I was ‘done’ after 35 years. And if you really want a challenge, pirate mode will keep you on your toes. The latest update of the game also offers cross-platform save transfers, so you can continue your game from another platform.
Game Dev Tycoon works really well on Switch, with both touch and controller support. The text is comfortably readable in both handheld mode and when docked. I noticed some slowdowns late in the game, but this was well after the game ‘ended’ – some 50 or 60 years since I’d started. It’s as addictive as I remember, and I was really happy to get this chance to try my hand at developing such gems as Dragoon Age Inquiry, Vampire Journals, Acme Attorney-at-Law, and World of S’morecraft.
If you enjoy tycoon games, and know a bit about gaming history, Game Dev Tycoon will keep you busy for hours.