I played Game Dev Tycoon at its original release—which was over seven years ago now. I remember I had a really good time with it, but I haven’t thought about it in years. That is, until it was set to make its way to Nintendo Switch. It sounded like it could be the perfect match for the portable console—and it very much is.
Game Dev Tycoon is a management game where you create a game development studio starting in the 80’s, and working your way through gaming’s major milestones—even creating those milestones yourself. Even though names are changed, there is definitely a glimpse of video game history as you go through the years—Nintendo is switched to Ninvento, for instance.
One of the main things you’ll do as a development studio in Game Dev Tycoon is make games, of course. To do this you move sliders to emphasize different aspects of development through three development phases. Determining what to focus on has a major impact on how the game will turn out. What also determines this is the platform, genre and subject matter.
At first you’ll only have a few platforms to develop for. As more consoles are released, though, more options become available. You’ll have to make an informed decision about the market share of a console—the more market it has, the more money your game can potentially make. Not only that, but you have to keep in mind the console’s age. Most platforms eventually become obsolete. The technology you have available doesn’t determine what consoles you can develop for, which is a strange decision. Instead of developing games, you can create custom game engines with the most cutting edge technology. But if you want to unlock that technology, you’ll have to put in the research.
Research is a major function that opens up new types of games, both graphically and in regards to subject matter. Research is probably the most important task you can assign yourself, or your employees—but it’s not the only one. You can also train your employees to increase their skills, from design to technical proficiency. Eventually you and your team will be moving into a bigger office, too, hiring more staff, and releasing hit after hit. Next thing you know you’ll have to move into a space with a motion capture studio and enough space for your development team.
It’s strange to say but the mechanics are simple, but incredibly satisfying. I don’t know if it’s the pop pop pop sound of your developers either contributing design or technology advancements to a game, or the “just one more” feeling you get when you want to see if this specific subject/genre combo will woo reviewers—if you’re able. If you’re not, you can generate game reports to see what combinations yield the best results, and make the most money.
Game Dev Tycoon is all about money. You run into the red for long enough and it’s game over. Despite Game Dev Tycoon’s casual appearance, careful planning is required to succeed. Wasting too much money on marketing a dud of a game will actually lose you customers, and affect your business in the long term. But if your team finds itself on the rocks, you can always pick up contract work to help make ends meet.
Some games don’t make the transition to Nintendo Switch that easily, but Game Dev Tycoon feels like a natural fit. The UI is more similar to the mobile version than the Steam version, but it works well with a controller and plays great in handheld mode. It already made its transition to mobile, and it plays great on the Switch.
Game Dev Tycoon, at this point, can almost be considered a classic. It has easy to understand, but satisfying mechanics that are very addictive in the “just one more round” sort of way. Its managerial elements feel complicated but never cumbersome. And it gives laymen the ability to design games the way you think they should be—and then face the wrath of reviewers. I definitely recommend this one.
Game Dev Tycoon releases today on Nintendo Switch, but is also available on Windows, iOS and Android.
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