In 2012 Game Dev Tycoon first came to our screens on PC. In 2018 we were able to download it on our mobiles. Now in 2020, eight years after its initial release, we can download the fun little management sim on Switch as well.
Game Dev Tycoon from Greenheart Games, is a title that has huge mass appeal. It takes the player through 35 years of gaming history, from making games in your garage to working towards becoming a worldwide industry leader. It’s full of tongue in cheek humor that will appeal to long time gamers, as well as being an example of how to make a compelling management sim that isn’t too overwhelming for those new to the genre. It has a casualness to it that makes it a relaxing, fun experience, whilst ensuring that you're never stuck wondering what to do next.
Over the 35 year time frame you experience the history of video gaming first hand. They rename major companies, consoles, and conventions, but only by one or two letters so they’re still instantly recognisable. Nintendo becomes Ninvento, Sega becomes Vena, the Gameboy becomes a Gameling. You’ll get frequent updates about gaming news, what consoles are coming out, and how different consoles are performing in terms of sales to aid your decision making.
From your garage you start off making simple games for early computers. You can choose the topic and genre, for example a sci-fi RPG, and which console you’d like to publish it on. When you’re making the game, you need to try and balance the time you spend on different elements; gameplay, level design, or sounds for example, and the right balance depends on what you’re making. Once you’ve published a game, you can create a report which will tell you important information like if the combination of topic and genre worked, and useful hints for which elements the combo requires you to focus on. You also earn research points from doing these reports, which can then be spent on things like new topics or more advanced design.
Once you’ve earnt enough money, you move up in the world. Your company gets new offices and you can start hiring people to grow your team. From here you can work on bigger games, get publishing deals, and even eventually develop your own hardware. Success can often come extremely quickly once you’ve had a hit game, and the millions of dollars will pile up. Then you need to be careful not to go overboard on spending and the temptation to expand too much, too fast, because you’ll find you can go bankrupt just as easily.
The best thing about the game is the scope for experimentation. Especially in the early stages, going bankrupt and starting again doesn’t feel like the end of the world, but making ridiculous combinations like a vocabulary themed action game just to see what happens never stops being amusing. The fact you can come up with your own game titles is an extra touch to make you smile, and nothing is worse than knowing you’ve tapped into a great idea, forgetting to name it, then being stuck with ‘Game#16’ in the charts and reviews that say ‘It’s better than the name!’.
This is the kind of thing that gives the game its air of charming silliness. It’s almost a parody of the gaming industry, which makes sense when you browse through the Greenheart Games website. Here, they pride themselves on not making games that are designed to be ‘revenue extraction platforms’ with forced wait times and in-app purchases. Instead Greenheart Games imagines a kinder gaming industry, both through their practises and in Game Dev Tycoon.
Whilst this release doesn’t add anything new for long time fans, it doesn’t need to. The game is already great and having it on a console like the Switch which allows for flexibility in where and how you play, is an excellent choice for a game you don’t want to put down once you’re in the middle of a good run. My only slight grievance is that using joy-cons doesn’t feel natural for this game, but since the touchscreen is fully optimised it’s not a big problem. Additionally, cross-platform saves have now been added as well, meaning your can swap between devices as much as you want, giving you even more options for where you play.
Game Dev Tycoon is a fantastic starting point for people curious about management sims, as well as being full of heart and humor for long time gamers. Whether you’ve been playing since 2012 or this is your first time hearing about the game, it’s time for Game Dev Tycoon to come to Switch! Will you make it to the top of the industry, or will that vocabulary themed action game end your career early?