If you’re looking for information about how to make a management simulation game like AdVenture Capitalist, this article is for you. We look at what AdVenture Capitalist is all about, why it’s as successful as it is, and how you can copy its success with your own game. We also offer some tips for developing and launching tycoon games in general.
We’ve already written an article about how to make an idle clicker game. This time, we’ll give all our attention to a single game whose success has been quite a phenomenon even within its category.
- What is AdVenture Capitalist?
- How does it work?
- How to make a tycoon game of your own
- The technical side of tycoon game development
- The cost to make a tycoon game
- How to publish a tycoon game
What is AdVenture Capitalist?
People have described AdVenture Capitalist as, among other things, a tycoon simulator, a management game, and a gathering game. They’re all true, but none of these descriptions really encompass the whole scope of this game.
AdVenture Capitalist is a web, PC, and mobile idle clicker game that’s a satire on capitalism. While playing it, you indulge in “capitalist freedoms,” spending money to buy things that will earn you more money. And you keep indulging even though you can clearly see the ridiculousness of it all.
In AdVenture Capitalist, you can, indeed, become a tycoon, and pretty fast at that. With the help of several upgrades and having “hired” the necessary managers, I personally became the owner of five oil rigs after about five hours of “idle” playing. (Are five rigs enough to be called a tycoon?)
So how does it work?
As with most idle clickers, the gameplay is pretty simple. You start with a single lemonade stand — something you’ve either tried yourself as a kid or at least seen in the movies. You tap or click on a lemon to virtually squeeze the juice to sell lemonade. In a minute or so, you’ve sold enough lemonade to buy more stands to earn faster. Next, you can hire a manager to do all the clicking/tapping for you and can even exit the game for some time. The money will keep rolling in as you go about your day.
Of course, you can’t become a tycoon on lemonade stands alone, even in a game. You’ll be growing your business with newspaper routes and ice cream parlors. Before long, you’ll own hockey teams, movies, banks, and oil rigs. All without really doing anything.
Where’s the fun in doing nothing?
Here’s the thing AdVenture Capitalist and other successful idle games do to keep high retention rates: they entice users to strategize, thus adding a feeling of achievement and control.
Should you buy another oil rig that earns you $2,000 in two hours or set up two more newspaper routes that, together with your existing ones, will make you $200 in three minutes? If you take a moment to calculate, you’ll see that building an oil rig isn’t that beneficial after all. Different combinations of upgrades will result in different profits, and choosing what to invest in makes economic simulation games like AdVenture Capitalist also strategy games of sorts.
You feel like it’s your decisions that make the business flourish, and that brings you satisfaction and drags you back into the game.
How to make a tycoon game of your own
First of all, it’s possible to build a simple clicker game with the help of a game maker and a tutorial, of which there are a number on the internet. However, you’ll need at least surface knowledge of coding and a full plan for your game. Also, to make a tycoon game as successful as AdVenture Capitalist, a game maker isn’t enough — it’s hard to make a unique game with a game maker. Outsourcing development is an option with a higher chance of success.
From the structure of your team to the challenges they’ll face, developing a mobile game is pretty different from developing any other mobile app. If you’re not a developer yourself, you’ll need to find a game development company to outsource your project to.
From a developer’s point of view, building a tycoon game in Unity isn’t too hard — the mechanics are simple and the design is rarely too complex. The hard part of starting a tycoon game is keeping users engaged even though they rarely do anything. The feeling of satisfaction from seeing huge numbers in your wallet is fleeting.
Here are just some of the issues you’ll have to solve to build a tycoon/economic simulation game.
AdVenture Capitalist’s selling point is its satirical plot — buying for the sake of being able to buy more. That’s why there are all kinds of businesses to own. But there are other tycoon games in a wide variety of settings. For example, Idle Miner Tycoon is, as one would expect, a game set in a mine. If you search "idle tycoon" on the App Store or Google Play, you’ll find all kinds of real-life settings like restaurants, hotels, factories, supermarkets, gyms, and theme parks. There are more unusual ones too, like the mafia, space, ancient civilizations, zombies, and even the underworld. Nothing is stopping you but your imagination.
AdVenture Capitalist’s graphics are 2D classic caricatures, and it’s a nice touch because this style corresponds well with the theme. After all, the game itself is a caricature of capitalism. But 2D caricatures are not a prerequisite for a tycoon business game, of course. A cursory app store search of idle tycoon games shows that graphics in this genre are as varied as anywhere else.
You can go 2D or 3D, cartoonish, realistic, anime-style, pixelated, geometric, or whatever. Do take into account what your setting is, the idea behind the game, and how you’re plotting the core loop.
Find a design that will fit your idea as well as AdVenture Capitalist’s design fits its idea.
Most mobile games, unlike PC and console games, have no fixed ending. That’s because when a game ends, the user deletes it and the developer can get no more revenue from it. One exception is games with paid downloads, which are similar to PC/console games that you only buy once. Hence, with your tycoon simulator, you’ll need to develop a core loop — a set of repeatable actions.
Tycoon clicker games have a simple core loop:
- Tap/click to get resources
- Spend these resources to get upgrades
- Go back to clicking to obtain more resources (or let upgrades do that for you)
Each new upgrade is more expensive than the previous, as is each new unit of an older upgrade (in many cases). In AdVenture Capitalist, for instance, the price of a new lemonade stand can reach several billion dollars at some point. This is done to slow progress and encourage you to buy other things. However, slower progress can make a game boring for users. To battle that, idle clickers have what we call prestige.
Prestige allows you to restart a game with certain bonuses. Usually, the initial earnings increase along with prestige while the costs of upgrades remain the same. With this ladder-like system, at each higher level of prestige you advance through the game faster, even though you’re starting the game anew.
The first prestige levels in AdVenture Capitalist are represented by Angel Investors. When you gather enough Angels, you can restart the game, losing all your businesses and upgrades but gaining a bonus for future earnings. This can be done time and again, and there’s even a strategy as to when you should use your Angels. Then at some point, you’ll be done conquering businesses on Earth and will move on to the Moon, once again starting anew. Somewhere out there might be the end, but reaching it takes a long time, so the game can keep players hooked for months.
There are three main monetization models that work well for games:
- Paid downloads
- In-app purchases
A subscription model, popular with certain types of non-gaming apps, rarely works well with games. At the same time, you can combine two or all three of these other models.
In most cases, games in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store use a combination of ads and in-app purchases. This is true of AdVenture Capitalist as well. You can download the game for free and play without paying for anything. But if the progress seems slow, you can watch an ad to double or even triple your profits for several hours; it’s also possible to buy gold bars for real money.
In some cases, a combination of paid downloads and in-app purchases works in games, though we haven’t found idle clickers as paid downloads, which hints that this model is hard to work with in this genre. Also, keep in mind that paid downloads and ads are rarely a winning combo in any app.
When you calculate the cost to develop a tycoon game, you should also consider your choice of monetization model. It’s not only about implementing a payment gateway, either. Both the App Store and Google Play Store retain 30% of your revenue from in-app purchases and paid downloads. Keep in mind this amount when calculating potential profits.
The technical side of tycoon game development
If you’re going to hire a tycoon game development company to create your business simulator game, here’s what specialists your team should have.
- Game designer(s)
A game designer will walk you through all steps of game development, starting with researching your idea and discussing your game’s meta, core mechanics, loop, and everything else.
- Unity developer(s)
The majority of mobile games in general, and idle clicker games in particular, are built using the Unity engine. Unity requires way less processing power than Unreal Engine (the second most popular game engine), and games built on Unity are lighter, which is essential for clickers. Unreal Engine’s biggest perk is its top-notch quality when it comes to 3D graphics. However, the difference becomes noticeable only for PC and console games. Unity3D handles both 2D and 3D graphics equally well for mobile devices.
Unity is a cross-platform engine, meaning that unlike for most apps, you won’t need different developers to write the code for web, iOS, and Android separately.
In most cases, a video game artist specializes in a specific field, be it character design, background design, or animations. Multitaskers do exist, of course, but they’re harder to find and might cost you more.
There’s also an option to buy ready-made designs: specialized websites exist where freelance artists offer their designs for sale. One popular place for this is the Unity Asset Store, where you can even find free or at least very cheap designs.
- Sound designer
Sound is as important to a game as art. Especially when it comes to the simplest games, sound effects and background music help immerse players. As with artwork, there are sound libraries as well. Your sounds should correspond to the game’s mood, and effects need to be tuned to actions. For example, hearing the sound of falling coins might lift a player’s spirits — who doesn’t like the sound and look of money, after all?
- Backend developer
Strictly speaking, clicker games are light and simple enough to not need a back end. All data can be stored on users’ devices, taking up little space. However, if you would like to hold in-game events or competitions among users, or if you have in mind some kind of top tycoons list, you’ll need a server.
The cost to make a tycoon game
The cost of game development is rarely set in stone, and there are quite a few things to consider. If we’re talking about a money-making simulator, there’s an issue of how many upgrades and prestige levels to offer and how the prices for them will change with progress. All this will affect the complexity of development and, hence, its duration and cost.
Then there’s the cost of art and sound, which can vary from creator to creator and team to team. The work of an in-team artist and sound designer will cost a different amount than buying art and sound separately, and the scales might tip either way.
Taking AdVenture Capitalist as an example — a tycoon simulator idle clicker game with several prestige levels and a couple dozen upgrade options — the development cost will start at about $18,000 and will go up or down depending on whether you make your game simpler or more complex.
How to publish a tycoon game
Once your tycoon/economic simulation game is developed, it’s time to publish it. You have two options here:
- Indie publishing
- Pitching to a game publisher
The indie way is, naturally, simpler — you register as a developer on your app store of choice and submit your game; after it’s approved, it’s live. However, with self-publishing, all the marketing will fall onto you as well. If you're launching your first app, buckle up and get ready for a bumpy road. Any app needs a marketing campaign for a successful launch, but games need it even more. The mobile gaming industry is highly competitive.
On the other hand, you can try to pitch your game to an established game publisher. There are a number of them out there. Kongregate, the platform publisher behind AdVenture Capitalist, is a well-known company these days, meaning any game they launch will have an initial audience by default. But there are others. If you’re planning to publish your first game, you’ll need to conduct a solid marketing campaign to attract initial users, and a publisher can help you with that.
Reaching out to a publisher isn’t a simple task (the industry competition, remember?). It’s somewhat similar to finding investors to fund your app development. A successful pitch to a publisher can be a huge leap for your game’s success.
Game development is a huge and diverse industry where everyone determined enough can find users. However, it’s also very competitive, and standing out isn’t a cakewalk. The competitiveness is even more pronounced with mobile games compared to PC and console games, since mobile gamers are usually casual or hyper-casual, and hardcore players are few and far between. It’s hard to find your audience and easy to lose it. On the other hand, if you do manage to launch your economic simulator successfully, the return on investment can be really high.
The game development team at Mind Studios has years of experience building with Unity and can offer both consulting and development services. If you’d like to know how to make a tycoon game in Unity when you’re not a developer yourself, drop us a line and we’ll get back to you with advice and a rough estimate for your project.