If you take a look at Twitter when a publisher posts an announcement for a new game, everyone believes they’re a couch-developer – they state how things should be done differently, they complain about the pixel count, spark outrage over visual changes, and love spreading ‘downgrade’ rumours because they’ve moved a puddle or two. Well, if you’re one of those, or you simply want to try out your hand at being a game dev for a day, albeit in a very casual and playful manner, your dreams can finally be achieved with Game Dev Tycoon on the Nintendo switch!
Game Dev Tycoon is the first game developed and published by Greenheart Games, allowing you to go full-on inception and play a game about making games that could potentially also be games which are about making games that make games about making games… This particular edition, on the Switch, was ported by Rarebyte, the team behind both the iOS and Android edition of the game, so if you’ve played either of those then you’ll be very familiar with the UI and tweaked interface over the PC version.
After a week of making games, which were my most successful, which bombed despite mimicking popular real-life titles, and which received very similar reviews to their named counterparts? Let’s jump straight in and find out…
Hello to the person who has been living under a rock for the last seven years, I’ll briefly explain what Game Dev Tycoon is to you as you’re pretty much the only person who won’t have seen or heard about this title. As stated above, this game allows you to take the role of a game developer in the most casual way possible – floating balls… Starting out as a single dev who lives in their mother’s garage whilst working around the clock, hoping to develop the next ‘big thing’ in gaming during the 1980s, you then expand as you purchase new offices, hire new people, and ultimately jump into the console manufacturing ‘war’ with your new hardware.
The aim of the game is to not flop, other than that you’re pretty much free to do whatever you want. You need to strategically plan out which topics and genres to use as your core focus, how much time to spend with each mechanic and aspect of the game, choose whether or not to gain outside help with publishing and above all, think of a really catchy name! Seriously, one of my most popular games early on was called “Game #11” because I forgot to rename it – one of my biggest regrets in my new life!
As you develop games, you also develop as a virtual person. Your stats increase, your efficiency with the engine and hardware begins to grow, and the wages of your staff inflate at an above-average rate. Essentially, Game Dev Tycoon is a puzzle game due to the way you have to balance the time management and allocation of the workload with each and every title based on the platform and genres used. It’s also, as expected, a very well designed time management game (duh), with a hint of simulation – I wouldn’t call it a full-on simulation like Mad Games Tycoon as it’s much more casual and easier to pick-up-and-play.
Let’s make a game
If you’ve seriously never seen Game Dev Tycoon before, I’ll run through the basics of making your first game. Once you’ve decided on the name of your company and what the back of your developers head looks like (yup, even the character customisation is very simple), we’re shown our future entrepreneur glued to his seat in the garage of, what I presume is, our mother’s house. Simply select him/her and begin to develop your own game.
There are multiple stages to making a game. First of all, you must name your masterpiece (don’t forget!), pick a Topic and Genre, and decide which platform it’s going to be for. You’re then given a choice of what visuals you wish to you – Text-based and 2D graphics are all you have at first. Now comes the fun part, sliders! There are three stages to development, each one containing three sliders that indicate different aspects such as the Engine, Gameplay and Sounds.
At this stage, all you need to focus on is “If I was making this game with this genre, what would ‘I dedicate more time to?” – with that in mind, slide accordingly.
Once you’ve completed all three steps, watched the mighty development balls float around, squished all the bugs, and released your game – it’s time to read your reviews! Don’t be put off by getting poor reviews as my first game was “Pong” and it got an average of 1.25/10, use that as a lesson on what not to do in the future. As such, you can then create a Game Report which will break down what you did well and poorly, leaving an indicator on the creation screen so you know how to replicate or avoid the same results next time.
In terms of gameplay, that’s pretty much it until you hit the jackpot, earn over a million dollars with one or more successful games by using past knowledge to improve and not fall for the same mistakes. Once you do have a sweet million, you can upgrade your dirty garage for a small office – this is when the game actually begins…
This office is where you begin to learn the more advanced aspected of Game Dev Tycoon such as hiring multiple people, researching new topics and features (which you can later incorporate into your own custom game engine to use and license out), expanding the ‘types’ of games you can make, and work with publishers. Once you’ve unlocked ‘Medium Games’ you can now assign a developer to each slider within each stage, ensuring they don’t overwork themselves (we don’t want a virtual crunch), this usually results in a much bigger payoff due to the increased development time and utilising your staff’s personal stats.
You’ll also unlock the ability to create the same game on three platforms, use multiple Topics, and even set the target audience age-range.
Publishing deals usually result in millions of copies being sold but, as in real life, you must meet their expectations and follow the set criteria of what game they want you to make, and you only receive a percentage of the overall sales and not the lions share as you would if you had self-published. However, despite this sounding like something you wouldn’t want to do, it can result in gaining a lot of fans and exposure which will lead to your own games generating more income in the long-term.
Despite looking rather simple and fun (with all those colourful balls), there is an actual deep element to Game Dev Tycoon which is a lot more strategic and puzzle-like than you may first presume.
Moving through the times
One of the fun and creative things about Game Dev Tycoon has to be the puns. Rather than paying out millions to major studios to use the titles of their games and the official names of the various consoles over the years, the developers have opted to make a pun out of every single console that’s released from the Vonny Playsystem to the Ninvento Swap! Although there’s no actual year in the game, the console’s release in-line with when they launched in real life, each one obtaining a certain market share as time goes on until they get discontinued.
The market share is very fictional though as it claims the Xbox One and PS4 had the same percentage… We all know that’s a fantasy certain people would like to believe!
The game was updated to include the Switch’s counterpart a while ago but the PS5 and Xbox Series X are still based on imaginary consoles – the Xbox is actually a giant Kinect console with the console built within it! However, what I do love are the press releases you get for each console as they are based on real events such as Nintendo coating the carts with a horrible chemical so kids don’t eat them, and the Xbox One doing a 180 when it got a tonne of backlash over the always-online situation.
As such, although the game is comical and the majority of it is fictional for entertainment purposes, it made me smile every time actual facts were woven into the game.
The ‘campaign’ for Game Dev Tycoon lasts 30, 35 or 42 years – based on what you pick – but the game doesn’t stop there. You are free to continue on with your journey once you’ve reached the end but there’s no new in-game releases in terms of new consoles. However, once you reach the end-game you can actually make your own consoles and release them alongside your own engines, making money off people using both of these and the consumers for buying them.
Similarly, you can expand from Small, Medium and Large games into AAA and MMOs, all requiring much more dedication and care put into them. MMOs are fun as they will remain on sale for many, many years, allowing you to release new expansions and content updates in order to keep people interested and invested. You can also organise your own conferences and events so that you don’t have to spend your money attending E3 – this was actually part of the game upon its first release but the concept is very relatable with the events going on in the world right now.
Much to my surprise, Game Dev Tycoon has achievements. It doesn’t have as many as the PC (that has 35 and the Switch has 25), but it has ones which will require you to play the game differently in order to obtain them. You’ll get one for spotting an easter egg within the office and naming one of your games after it, one for naming your studio after a real one, and there’s even the infamous pirate trophy and mode!
Yarrr, what be this mode?
If you’ve never heard of the pirate mode within Game Dev Tycoon, it’s something rather ingenious. Everyone knows that the PC is populated by three types of gamer – those who buy games on multiple launchers and has fun playing their games, those who deem anything not on Steam as being the work of Satan (especially if it’s on the Epic Games Store), and filthy pirates who illegally download and play all the new releases without paying a penny because they’re ‘entitled’ to everything they desire. Because of this, various developers have gone one step further than simply implementing the unbreakable (yet always gets cracked within days) Denuvo DRM…
The first ‘joke’ aimed at pirates which I recall being made a big deal of was Serious Sam 3. The developers created a bunch of immortal red scorpions which ran after you in every level if the game detected that it was an illegal pirated copy and not one which was bought legitimately. This led to people complaining over on the Steam forums and various websites like Reddit as they couldn’t kill these massive beasts and didn’t know why. Obviously, any of the developers who saw these posts must have just been sitting there, laughing at the entitled pirates as they couldn’t progress within the game. These days, people actually try and speedrun the game with these re-enabled via a mod – crazy!
This brings us back to Game Dev Tycoon, when this game launched it also had an anti-piracy effect secretly hidden within the code. If you hadn’t bought the game, you would suffer an event of people pirating your games within an hour or so of gameplay. This leads to your studio going under and declaring bankruptcy. Once again, people complained and the devs just watched on and laughed at them. However, as this mode became viral online, the developers actually added it as a playable mode within the retail game!
So, if you play the Pirate Mode (not for first-timers), your company will begin to have its games pirated once you move to the new studio. But why would you do this? simple, you can also invest in research of DRM that stops people from being able to crack your games – just like in real life. It adds a more realistic concept to the game and makes it much more difficult, whilst offering a few trophies in regards to beating this mode as well. I love that this is an optional setting which was originally placed within the code simply to offer the pirates a ‘demo’ and push them to buy the retail version if they wish to continue.
Game Dev Tycoon was originally a PC game that used Keyboard and Mouse. It was then ported to Android and iOS, by the same team who have now put it on the Switch, implementing a touch-only control method. The Nintendo Switch has both a touch screen and a controller, so the controls needed to be updated again for those who wish to play in table-top, TV, or portable mode with Joy-Cons. If playing portably then you can, if you wish, play the entire game with your flexible fingers, as you do with the mobile port – this was by far my favourite method of play.
I’ve had a serious issue with my right (dominant) hand recently, so being able to play the whole game via touch meant I had a much better experience than the other games I’ve been trying to play!
However, for those who want to dock your Switch, or prefer not to leave fingerprints all over your screen, how are the new controller controls? They work. Okay, I’m not the biggest fan but if you spend a few minutes getting used to them, they’ll work just fine. Pushing the D-pad or either thumbstick will allow you to pick one of your developers, from there you can pick what you want each of them to do (as you would if you simply ‘tap’ on their heads). Alternatively, you can push X and bring up the ‘studio’ menu, which is where you start a new game, look for contract work, take on a publisher, etc…
I liked touching the screen more than using the controller, but both methods work efficiently and effectively, giving you full control over both your staff and the workload you’re about to take on.
The developers have implimented a brand-new feature to the Switch edition of the game, you can now import saves from any other version of the game (PC, iOS or Android) – there’s just one small problem, at the moment only the Switch has this feature! However, don’t despair, there’s a patch rolling out for all other versions around launch which will enable the feature. The game officially releases on the 8th of October so I imagine the update will be later this week on all platforms.
The way it works is, you goto the ‘Load Game’ menu and click on the cog next to your saved game. From here you can ‘upload’ the save to the developer’s servers and you’ll get a ‘beautiful save-code’ generated which you need to take note of – seriously, if you don’t and you press okay, you can’t see this code again. Now, if you press the cog next to a blank save (or press Y on the empty slot), you can ‘download’ the game by inputting the code you were given previously. It’s a pain that it doesn’t store the save code for easy access later, but it does seem to work as I’ve just downloaded a copy of my own save.
Imported games can have the achievements enabled or disabled – I imagine this is so you can share companies with friends or maybe even pick up saves from strangers online who have amassed millions of dollars for those who want a sandbox-like scenario. I can only imagine that if the game also comes to the PS4 and Xbox (please make this happen), importing of saves will simply disable trophies by default to avoid cheaters abusing the process.
I’ve always loved the aesthetics of Game Dev Tycoon, ever since I first played it back in 2013 on PC followed by when I bought it on my iPad a few years ago. It’s a very clean and simple looking game that becomes strangely satisfying once the colourful balls begin to bounce around the screen, representing the research and development which is going on. Now, I’m no game developer, but I find it hard to believe that this is a 1:1 representation of what happens in studios such as Insomniac Games, but I’d like to imagine that they spend all day throwing balls back and forth at one another!
The music is very nostalgic for me, as I’ve spent hours playing it previously and instantly found myself humming along whilst playing recently as well. Even the ‘blip’ noise each of the balls make as they are thought up then processed into the game are fun to listen to – especially when you have hundreds jumping around the screen! Don’t judge me, I just find it relaxing.
Personally, I would have loved for the developers to expand the consoles and maybe add some new platforms such as Stadia, Luna and even subscriptions such as Game Pass and PS Now. A touch-up to the Xbox SX and PS5 would also have been a nice addition seeing as we know what they look like and the fact there are two variants to each one. However, had that been the case then they would have had to change all version of the game otherwise cross-saves wouldn’t have worked – this would have also taken time away from the developers working on their current game they’re creating, Tavern Keeper.
Despite being seven years old, Game Dev Tycoon still stands up as one of the best casual simulation games of all time. If you’re a couch-dev who likes to abuse real-life devs over their creative choices and decisions (don’t do this), now you can put your money where your mouth is and take a shot at creating your own games – albeit via a much more casual and simplified process. From your single-person studio in a garage to a multi-million dollar console manufacturer and publisher, 35+ years will simply fly by due to how much fun you’re having.
What will your best-developed game be? For me, annoyingly, almost any game I made about Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Teresa May seemed to get two or three 10/10 ratings! Yet, when I made Mario, Doom, Pong, and Call of Duty, every single one scored less than 3/10 – it’s all media bias and fake news!
Game Dev Tycoon£13.49
- - Very addictive and easy to play
- - You can create the games of your dreams (and watch them fail)
- - The controls work great either via touch or a controller
- - The music will find a spot in your brain and live there forever
- - Lots and lots of puns and imitations
- - Why hasn't this released on other consoles as well!