How to Make a Tycoon Game like AdVenture Capitalist

A management simulation game AdVenture Capitalist is a perfect example of why building an idle game is a smart investment. It might seem simple, but over 20 million downloads across app stores speak for themselves.

So, what exactly is this game about? Why is it such a success? And finally — how to make a tycoon game of your own?

Mind Studios Games is no stranger to developing tycoon games. In fact, it’s one of our main niches: We’ve built over a dozen tycoon games in a variety of settings during the last several years. You can check our portfolio for some highlights. (We have a new release in this genre soon as well.)

In this article, we explore all things tycoon games and share Mind Studios Games’ experience of developing similar idle games. Read on to get some insights.

What is AdVenture Capitalist?

What is AdVenture Capitalist?

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.

So, how does it work?

As with most idle clickers, the gameplay for capitalism simulator game development 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 money faster. Next, you can hire a manager to do all the clicking for you and can even exit the tycoon game for some time. The money will keep rolling in as you go about your day.

Read also: How to Develop an NFT Game? Your 6-Step Guide

After lemonade stands, 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?

AdVenture Capitalist and other successful idle games keep high retention rates by enticing users to strategize, thus adding a feeling of achievement and control. 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.

Essentially, you feel like it’s your decisions that make the business flourish, and that brings you satisfaction and drags you back into the game.

What are the benefits for tycoon game owners?

What are the benefits for tycoon game owners?

So what’s in it for you? Why should you decide to create an idle clicker game like AdVenture Capitalist? There are three main incentives.

It’s a cost-effective choice

Unlike games with complex meta loops and intricate scenarios, idle games like AdVenture Capitalist are relatively inexpensive to develop. Just one core loop, limited functionality, and often simplified artwork of incremental games mean they require little time to develop.

At the same time, according to GameAnalytics’ data from 2019, incremental games have higher retention than other game types. This means that with well-crafted monetization, you will have high ROI and will most likely profit from the game very soon.

Obviously, the cost still depends on your tycoon game design complexity, the quality of the artwork, and the geographical location of the outsourced development team. But these factors affect the development cost of any type of game, and there are ways to cut them.

For instance, a team of US-based developers will charge more than a team from a country with lower average hourly rates. However, lower prices don’t necessarily equal lower quality, and game developers from Eastern European countries like Ukraine or Poland, for example, are known to deliver just as great results as the American teams. Just don’t forget to do the background check of the team you’re thinking of hiring.

Read also: Benefits of Mobile Game Development Outsourcing

High rates of in-app purchases

One of the reasons incremental games are so attractive to users is that they are free to play, and boosters can usually be obtained by watching ads or for a relatively small price. These include speeding up the waiting time, passing difficult levels, etc.

And since the rewards within the game are continually increasing and the risks of losing are minimal, users feel more secure about making in-app purchases. According to the previously mentioned GameAnalytics article, 37% of idle games monetize through such purchases.

Overall, the average revenue per daily active idle user is 9 times higher than for hyper-casual games:

  • “Mindless” clicking action makes users psychologically more ready to watch ads for boosters, earning you revenue from this;
  • Cheap IAPs in idle games make the purchase decision easier to make.

Addictive nature of idle games translates into high retention

Another article published on GameAnalytics in 2021 provides data that idle games are more engaging than hyper-casual ones. For example, idle games users play more frequently (5.3 times daily) and have longer gaming sessions (8 minutes).

A lot of people play easy management games like Adventure Capitalist to relieve stress or get their minds off things. They can be doing it on their lunch breaks, on a bus to work, or between lectures at university. And during particularly busy days, when they don’t have a spare minute to play, users want to be certain their scores won’t disappear.

With idle games and tycoon games in particular, users’ rewards (like in-game currency) continue piling up even when they are not playing. Even more so, often idle games users’ long-term strategic goals require simply waiting, which provides natural pauses in the gameplay. Since the players always have something to look forward to in terms of benefits within the management game, they keep returning to it for a guaranteed dose of dopamine.

Tycoon game development: Key steps

Tycoon game development: Key steps

From the structure of your team to the challenges they’ll face, building tycoon games 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.

Our developers talk a lot about how to create an economic simulation game, as it is their main focus right now. From a developer’s perspective, building a tycoon game in Unity is fairly simple, since its mechanics and design are of basic game level. The hard part of starting a tycoon game is keeping the users engaged even though they barely do anything.

Here are the crucial steps to the tycoon game development and launching process.

#1 Define the game’s setting

Conceptually-wise, all tycoon games are more or less the same: You (the game creator) offer players an opportunity to develop some sort of business. They’ll start simple and upgrade it into an empire enterprise. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, yes and no.

On one hand, the idle tycoon genre has no limits as to the setting; anything can be made into a business-like venture. If you search “idle tycoon” on the App Store or Google Play, you’ll find:

  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Factories
  • Supermarkets
  • Gyms
  • Theme parks

And also:

  • Mafia
  • Space
  • Ancient civilizations
  • Zombies
  • The Underworld

Nothing is stopping you but your imagination.

On the other hand, with the market being full of every setting imaginable, you’ll need something to stand out.

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.
Another hugely successful title, Idle Miner Tycoon is, as one would expect, a game set in a mine. In 2019, Nate Barker, the then Director of Business Development at Kolibri Games, shared in an interview what one of the reasons for the game’s success was. Idle Miner Tycoon stood out because in the time when every tycoon game was building upwards, Kolibri made a game that was about building downwards. Simple, but it turned out extremely effective.

Speaking from Mind Studios’ personal experience of developing tycoon games, we would recommend taking into account trends that are going viral in the countries you are targeting. This will require extensive research and analysis, but will increase your chances to make it on the idle game market.

Idle Rocket

One of the idle games developed by Mind Studios Games is Idle Rocket Tycoon, where users build a spaceship. In the era of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, this setting was bound to succeed. While our game is yet to reach the success levels of AdVenture Capitalist, the game has over 500k downloads and a rating of 4.2 on Google Play Store.

#2 Decide on the game’s progression

Most mobile games in the idle, casual, and hyper-casual genres have no fixed ending. People can play them for years, reaching one goal after the other. However, to keep your audience playing your idle tycoon game, you need to keep them entertained. How to make a capitalism simulator game successful long-term when you literally have one or two mechanics?

You’ll need to develop a Core loop and a Prestige that fit into your setting.

Core loop

Core loop is the limited set of actions players can take in your game. 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

As a rule, each new upgrade is more expensive than the previous one, as is each new unit of an older upgrade. In AdVenture Capitalist, for instance, the price of a new lemonade stand can at some point reach several billion dollars. This slows users’ progress and encourages them to buy other things. However, slower progress can make a management game boring, which is why 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.

#3 Choose a monetization model

Choose a monetization model

This step might seem way down the road if you’ve only just decided to make your own tycoon game. However, it’s better to decide on how you are going to make money out of it right from the start. There are four main monetization models:

  • Subscriptions
  • Paid downloads
  • In-app purchases
  • Ads

A subscription model, popular with non-gaming apps, works well with plot-rich action/exploration games and RPGs — in the way of battle passes. But something as simple as idle tycoon games will have a hard time encouraging players to pay a monthly fee.

Paid downloads mostly work for games by renowned publishers. If you’re new to the market, asking people to pay to download your game will have rather low chances of success.

In most cases, idle tycoon games 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.

Overall, rewarded video ads are one of the safest choices here. Since users watch them intentionally when they want to get a reward, this type of ad is non-disruptive and is less likely to annoy the players, like banner ads and interstitial ads do. In addition, those videos can actually be relevant to the users, especially if you are advertising games of the same genre. Don’t worry about the competitors stealing your users: on average, players are playing 4–5 idle games simultaneously.

You should also consider your choice of monetization model when you calculate the cost to develop a tycoon game. App Stores take part of your revenue from in-app purchases and paid downloads. Google Play Store takes a 15% fee for the first $1M (USD) of earnings, and Apple App Store has similar conditions in their Small Business Program. (Apps that earn more pay more in fees as well.) Keep in mind this amount when calculating potential profits.

#4 Work carefully on your game’s UX design

Simplicity is the biggest strength of games like AdVenture Capitalist, and that includes not only mechanics but the overall UX design. The placement of buttons and menus, their size, and the text explaining functionality must be well-thought-out to create a smooth playing experience.

To achieve this, do an extensive research and look into your competitors — both successful ones and not that popular. Try to understand what they did right or wrong, and sculpt your game’s UX to be a masterpiece.

If you’re hiring an outsourcing game development company for your game, a team with specialization in idle tycoon game development will most likely know the current trends in the genre and will help you make heads from tails.

#5 Proceed to development and testing

When the details of the game design, visuals, and UX are all worked out, you can start on actual development.

Unlike non-gaming apps, mobile games are generally built as cross-platform apps, with the help of a game engine. The most popular game engine for mobile games is Unity — its light weight, intuitive interface, flexible pricing, and active community make it a go-to choice for many small and medium game development companies as well as indie developers.

We always urge our clients to allocate ample amount of time for testing your game. Due to high market saturation and competition for mobile games in general and for tycoon titles in particular, it’s imperative for new games to have as few bugs as possible.

#6 Launch your idle tycoon game

Launch your idle tycoon game

Launching a mobile game is different from launching a non-game mobile app. We will talk more about it several sections down in this article, but in short, we recommend:

  1. Starting with a soft launch
  2. Looking for a mobile game publisher with a portfolio of games in the idle genre

Both these recommendations stem from our experience launching mobile games for years.

Game publishers will provide you with better marketing opportunities. And soft launch will serve as an extra testing stage, with real users from your target audience. Their feedback will be an invaluable asset to your game before hard launch.

Read more: Soft Launch vs. Hard Launch: What Is It and Examples

Creating a tycoon game design: Best practices

Simple idle games, especially the ones that copy hitmakers on the market, often have one pattern and nothing that makes them stand out. In this section, we’ve collected the best tycoon game design practices and useful tips that will help you catch your target audience’s eye and create a simple yet one-of-a-kind game.

Invest in unique theming, art, and sound

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. However, don’t limit your project by 2D caricatures only when developing a tycoon business game. After all, you don’t want your product to be the exact copy of the existing one.

You can go 2D or 3D, cartoonish, realistic, anime-style, pixelated, geometric, or something entirely new. Do take into account what your setting is, the idea behind the game, and how you’re plotting the core loop.

While the mechanics of games like AdVenture Capitalist are fairly simple, characters and setting are precisely what can appeal to the users and create an immersive experience. In Taps to Riches, a game similar to AdVenture Capitalist, the setting’s appearance progresses along with the game. The higher the level of empire you build, the more vivid and elaborate the picture is.

Another popular setting for idle games is cookie stores. So, how do developers still manage this scenario to stand out? They make the goods at the store aesthetically appealing, provide rare cookie items and create upgraded confectionary items.

Sound is also a crucial component of any game. Poor-quality music and sound effects can turn the customers away. And vice versa, funny characters’ voices, or music theme that gets stuck in your head for days can be your thing — something that makes your game truly stand out.

Find a design that will fit your idea as well as AdVenture Capitalist’s design fits its idea.

Enrich the mechanics

Enrich the mechanics

Yes, incremental games usually have a simple core loop. However, there are still ways to make the gaming experience exciting and unique for the players. You can achieve this by implementing multiple mechanics that will be gradually introduced throughout the game, motivating users to change their strategic moves.

Even though idle games are about always winning, they still require users to make decisions, manage their empires, and achieve desired goals. And the game will be more engaging if there is more than one way to do that. When playing AdVenture Capitalist, users can decide on whether they want to pursue the lemonade business, open a pizza place, or run a bank.

Keep it simple

The reason we mentioned gradual introduction of different mechanics is that players should feel excited but not overwhelmed by the gaming experience. Make sure the onboarding and the first session are simple and don’t require much effort. You can let the users know there are many unlocked goals and levels ahead so that they have something to look forward to.

In addition, make the value of in-app purchases clear right from the start so that the users know how they are going to improve their gaming experience.

Roles on the development team for Tycoon Games

If you’re going to hire a game development company to create a tycoon game, here’s what specialists your team should have.

Game designer(s)

A game designer will walk you through all steps of your capitalism simulator game development, starting with researching your idea and discussing your game’s meta, core mechanics, loop, and everything else.

Artists and animators

Artists and animators

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: 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.

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.

There are other game engines on the market, but as of the time we’re writing this article, Unity is still the leader for idle tycoon games due to its intuitiveness and active community.

Our team knows how to make a tycoon game in Unity, it is our game engine of choice.

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 quality assurance specialist is the first one to test the game, report on every little flaw and inconvenience, and make sure that the final product is impeccable.

Cost of tycoon game development: In detail

The cost of game development is rarely set in stone, and there are quite a few things to consider. For instance, 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 of dozen upgrade options — the development cost will start at about $15,000. The price might go up or down depending on whether you make your game simpler or more complex.

Now, let’s break down this total number into separate stages of the development process and take a look at Mind Studios’ approach to each of them. Keep in mind that the time frame for these stages is calculated specifically for a tycoon game. The prices are based on our company’s hourly rate of $25–40 depending on the specialists involved, the type of services we provide, the complexity of the project, and other factors.

Stage 1. Game design and wireframing

Game design and wireframing

During this stage, the team is working on how the game is going to work, which involves determining the core mechanics and the core loop of the game. Designers create wireframes — sketches that show users’ actions within the game, as well as the core mechanics and the core loop.

When you make your own tycoon game, the game's core mechanics are the main actions the users can perform. This can include clicking, running, building objects, collecting loot, fighting obstacles, etc.

The team also has to work out the core loop of the game, which is a sequence of actions throughout the game. For instance: Click to earn a reward –> upgrade –> click more. When a certain level is reached, you make a prestige level and go back to the beginning, but with bonuses. Then you repeat the loop. In addition to this, designers also work on level design, the design of notifications and rewarded videos, and other actions.

Time: 80 hours

Cost: $2000

Stage 2. Art, UI design & Animation

At this point, the team is working on what the game is going to look like. Game artists and animators create visual mockups, which include drawings of the backgrounds, characters, and other objects in 2D or 3D graphics. The team can also make a few versions of the visual concept of the game for the client to choose from.

Time: 100 hours

Cost: $3000

Stage 3. Development

Once the artwork, the core mechanics, and the core loop are ready, we can transform mockups into a real game. As we’ve mentioned in one of the previous sections, Mind Studios team's main tool for developing mobile games is Unity game engine, which is an excellent platform to build idle games on.

As for the backend and server part of the game, it might not even be necessary. Idle games are fairly simple and thus don’t require much space, so most data can be stored on the user’s devices or the cloud storage.

The last phase of development is testing. Since the mobile game market is extremely competitive, your game must be flawless to make it there. You can even arrange for a closed beta testing at this point and let friends or the most loyal users play the game and report any bugs they come across.

Time: 300 hours

Cost: $10,000

Stage 4. Soft launch

Even though idle tycoon games are relatively simple, you still need to get everything right before the official release if you want the project to be a success. The soft launch means making the game available to a limited number of users first so that you can receive their feedback and optimize the game accordingly. Such a test run is often conducted on a limited territory, for instance, one country, to check if it is enjoyable for the targeted audience and if set KPIs can be met.

Time and cost depend on the duration of this phase.

Stage 5. Release & support

This stage doesn’t end with simply launching the game. It also involves setting up tech support, working on traffic generation, improving financial performance and evaluating the game in terms of profits according to the lifetime value criterion.

Cost: monthly fee or T&M

To sum up, here is a table with the costs for each of the idle game development stages:

Incremental tycoon games development process Hours Cost, USD
Game design & Wireframing 80 2000
Art, UI design & Animations 100 3000
Development stage 300 10,000
Soft Launch Depends on the duration of this phase
Release & Support Ongoing Monthly fee or T&M
Total 580+ 15,000+

How to publish a tycoon game

How to publish a tycoon game

Once you finish your capitalism simulator game development, it’s time to publish. You have two options here:

  1. Indie publishing
  2. Pitching to a game publisher

The indie way is, naturally, simpler and cheaper — you register as a developer on your app store of choice and submit your game.

Publishing on Google Play Store will cost you $25 as a one-time fee to register an account, and then you can publish as many games as you wish for free. Apple asks for a yearly fee of $99 to keep your game(s) available for download.

After your app is approved by the app store moderation, it goes 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. You can read some advice on marketing campaigns in our article about how to market your app successfully.

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. These services can be costly, but with a good publisher that has a wide reach in your niche, your game will be noticed by more players. Besides, a publisher can also offer feedback and suggest changes to your game based on experience.

Mind Studios Games experience

Mind Studios Games experience

In the 10+ year history of Mind Studios company, one of our most significant milestones was establishing our own game development department back in 2018. That same year, the Mind Studios Games team went to a Pocket Gamer Connects 2018 gaming conference in Helsinki to present our first-ever gaming product.

Since then, we’ve gained experience not only in developing games, but in creating pitch decks and helping our clients raise solid investments.

Obviously, throughout these years our portfolio has gotten considerably bigger, and a significant part of it is dedicated to idle capitalism simulator game development. Here are a few of them:

Idle Crypto Miner

A tycoon simulation with the trending setting of crypto mining and trading. Players can purchase mining rigs to mine 10 different cryptocurrencies and trade fictional Bitcoin on the exchange. We even added some semblance of realistic market conditions: The exchange prices are updated every 5 minutes to track moves in the market.

Download: iOS | Android

Idle Rocket Tycoon

Here, players get a chance to raise a virtual fortune by running a rocket-building company with numerous minion-workers under their management.

Download: iOS | Android

My Fish Shop: Idle Tycoon Game

In this idle tycoon game, players start with a small fish shop and develop it into a network of markets that sell all kinds of seafood, raw and cooked.

Download: iOS | Android

When designing a new mobile game, especially following an existing gaming model, it’s crucial to consider the lifestyle trends of the country you’re going to target. Cryptocurrency has been all the rage for a few years now, so it’s no wonder that one of the games we’ve worked on is called Idle Crypto Miner. Just like AdVenture Capitalist, it’s an incremental tycoon game, except here you can become rich by building your own crypto empire. Our team strived to make it as realistic as possible, so players can even buy Bitcoins at the up-to-date cryptocurrency exchange rate.

As you can see, we know how to create a tycoon game, we’ve built a number of them as our own products and as an outsourcing development team. If you’d like to see more of our projects or ask any questions, get in touch.

Tycoon games development: Conclusion

Game development is a huge and diverse industry where everyone determined enough can find its users. At the same time, it’s 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. However, if you do manage to launch your economic simulator successfully, the return on investment can be really high.

Finding a skilled team with experience in this highly competitive field is half the battle. So, if you have an idea for an idle game (or simply know that you want to build one but have no concept yet) — Mind Studios Games has your back. We provide full-cycle game development services, from researching the market to creating game art, launching the final product, helping to market it, and even pitching the game to investors.

Book a free consultation with our team, and we’ll discuss your idea, walk you through the process of implementing it, and give you a rough estimate for the project.