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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Criminally Overlooked Games: Monopoly Tycoon

If you're like me, you cringe at the sight of a "Tycoon" game. There are a few that are halfway decent, like Rollercoaster Tycoon and its variants, but by and large there really isn't much to like about them. They're cheap knockoffs. They play bad. There's no depth to them. They look drab. To put it another way, they suck.

On top of that, most board games don't translate very well to video games. Whenever you see a version of a board game on a console, what do you do? If you're like me, you run the other way as far and fast as you can, unless you're looking for a game you'll play once, smirk at and then go back to playing something else that has more merit.

So, seeing a game called "Monopoly Tycoon" is like the worst of both worlds. It's easy to see why this one got passed over when it was released back in 2001. Most people took one look at the title, rolled their eyes, and went and bought something else that didn't look like a kid's game. You really can't blame them, because on paper, Monopoly Tycoon looks all wrong.
It's a good reason video games aren't played on paper, because Monopoly Tycoon is excellent. It's basically a business simulation, with you trying to figure out what types of businesses people want, how much to charge for your services, and how to continue making money with the least amount of overhead.

In each level, you're handed a bunch of empty blocks and told to complete a certain goal. In most levels, you compete against surprisingly good AI characters to achieve the goal before they do. The goals could be something like "sell 100 items" or "make $1000 in profit in one day." As the game goes on, the goals get more complex and more difficult until you're putting just as much thought into Monopoly Tycoon as you would in running a real business.

Let's use an example. Clothing is always in demand around the city. It's a great business to run, because clothing has a high markup. You'll purchase clothing at 30 pieces for $10 apiece, but the default consumer price is $30. Great, right? Every piece you sell, you'll make $20! Score!

Not so fast. Your competitor across the street is selling the exact same clothes, but since it has such a high margin, he's marked it down to $20. He's selling out of his stock of 30, thereby making $300 profit every day. You might sell five pieces of clothing, meaning that you make $100 in profit every day. Add that to the costs of running your store, which could be more or less depending on which part of town your store is, and you could find yourself in the red very quickly. Therefore, you have to adjust your price so that you can compete with the guy across the street or else he'll outsell you.

There are other features that add to the depth of the game. For instance, you're allowed to lease entire city blocks at auction. If you do so, you pay no rent on your properties on the block until your lease expires. If someone else owns the block, all rent you pay goes to the person who owns it. You can also build apartment buildings, making it possible to collect large chunks of rent at the end of each day and offsetting other expenses you may have.

It's a shame this game didn't get more love from the press at large. I suppose they did the same thing that most people did, namely, looked at the title and assumed it wasn't any good. I can't blame them for not noticing, but you can find it for about $5 and it works on Windows XP and Vista. If it sounds intriguing to you, go get it. You won't regret it.