Typically I'm not a big fan of the sim-management type games. Back in the day I was hopelessly addicted to SimCity on the SNES, but future iterations of that game and of similar franchises just never appealed to me. They all seemed a bit too complicated, or required a hectic style of time and resource managing that turned me off to them, and nothing has quite captured the particular mix of simplicity and subtle depth from that classic SNES title. That changed yesterday when I discovered Kairosoft's Game Dev Story [$3.99] on my iPhone. It offers a sim-management experience that's not overwhelmingly complex, but at the same time has a lot of different elements that meld together well to create compelling gameplay. Plus, it's just a ton of fun to create your own games and see them go on to be huge successes (and sometimes total flops).

In Game Dev Story you'll play the president of a fledgling game development company as you direct your crew of designers, artists, and coders in an effort to create a string of successful video games over a 20 year time period. Beyond just making games, you'll need to grow your own brand name by running a game convention booth, attending awards shows, advertising, and managing an ever-changing fan base. As your company expands, you'll have the opportunity to move into larger offices and hire a bigger team of employees, all of whom can be leveled up and trained (at the expense of  higher salaries) so as to create better games. If you really become a big company, and have employees with the right skill sets, you can even create your own console and compete with the well established big boys in the hardware game.

To start off, though, you're just a tiny company with a few employees and a small amount of start-up capital to work with. You can choose to make games for home consoles or PCs, but each console requires you to purchase a license before you can develop games for it. To earn some extra funding for licenses or projects, outside contract work can be accepted. It's not the most exciting work, but it will pay the bills and help you earn enough money to make games of your own. Once you have the money to make a game, you'll choose which platform, genre, and style of game you want to make. Your own employees can be used to create the story, graphics, and sound, or you can source out that work to other professionals for a fee. A number of factors can affect how your game sells, including your fan base, what time of year you release (holiday season is best), and how the media reviews the game.

One aspect I especially liked about Game Dev Story is how it parodies every major console released for the last 20+ years, and loosely mimics their individual success levels. So when Intendro introduces the first portable game system the Game Kid, you can bet it will be a really popular system to support given the Game Boy's history. However, when they come out with the newfangled Virtual Kid, with its headache-inducing 3D goggles, you'll see it disappear from the market fairly quickly. These are the types of things that you must consider before shelling out the dough for a console license, although one extremely popular game can rewrite the history of a failed console as well.

While the gameplay in Game Dev Story is fun and engaging, the overall presentation falls a bit flat. The 16-bit style pixel graphics are charming and certainly get the job done, but they are a far cry of what is capable from even the oldest iOS devices. The screen size is also oddly small, with plenty of wasted space on the top and bottom. It almost seems as if it's a port from a different device, like an older smartphone or PDA, but I couldn't find any information to that effect. The menu navigations work just fine and the game is still very easy to play, it just seems strange. Another minor annoyance is that despite having an in-game manual hardly any of the game mechanics are explained very well, although the game is simple enough that you catch on after playing for a bit.

Game Dev Story won't impress you with stellar visuals or an iPhone specific feature set, but it is a well thought out and thoroughly enjoyable time sink, and is even more intriguing if you're familiar with the last few decades of video game history. It took me roughly five hours to play through the 20 year career of my company, and at the end of that time your highest selling game and biggest profits serve as the final score, though you can keep playing beyond that time period indefinitely if you choose. There really is just something about this game that keeps me coming back for more over and over again. Further impressions and help discussion are taking place in our forums, and if you've ever had a hankering to create your own video games then Game Dev Story is one you should definitely check out.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

    This game is absolutely outstanding and has soaked up my afternoon.

    • Kidkanedtx

      this game is destroying my life

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gaming-Grind/100003709415113 Gaming Grind

      So true! When I first got this game, I ended up playing it the entire day!

  • John

    Cought this one on the forum last night, and have played a ton. My first game company was a disaster, but good for learning the ropes, so i stopped early. Im playing through again, and am hopelessly addicted. The presentation is totally forgivable.

  • http://twitter.com/sidetwo Peter Papadopoulos

    Ooh this looks pretty interesting. I'm always a fan of time management type of games and usually they're always in an industry I'm not that interested in. Working in this industry I'm sure I'll get a lot of enjoyment to see how much it can make fun of the processes we undergo.

  • MisterDrgn

    It looks like fun. I love the workers' names from that video, especially Biggs Porkins (nice star wars shout-out).

  • gamedevbizcompanydude

    Finaly this kind of game for my ipod... i have played GameBiz 1 & 2 for PC, and GameBiz 3 is just around the corner now.. and its free :D looking forward to download this game now, and looking forward to try gamebiz 3 on pc :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Lord-Gek-Jordan/1559737263 Tim Lord Gek Jordan

    So how close does this game simulate history? I mean will getting a license for the Virtual Boy ALWAYS be a complete waste or does it actually do okay sometimes in this parallel universe?

    • Magic8ballgenie

      Seems like if you can make a hit game for a historically doomed console, you can change fate. Not quite sure though, as my hit games are few and far between.

      • Swamp7hing

        I've cranked out a straight 9's for the 'Virtual Boy' and managed to increase it's market share. As unrealistic as that sounds, I got a good laugh out of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Lang/546797695 Steve Lang

    Within the game, how specific can you be about the game you are developing? I would develop a sim-management game about being a game developer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Lang/546797695 Steve Lang

    Within the game, how specific can you be about the game you are developing? I would develop a sim-management game about being a game developer.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1801740895 Lenno Linjama

      There actually IS a "Game Co." genre, I made one and it was a huge hit.

      And this game should be too, it's absolutely amazing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=891290233 Eric Winslow

    Bought this a couple hours ago and have been playing it non-stop since then, I love it!

  • Anonymous

    There's a similarly-themed freeware title floating around the interwebs called gamebiz (i believe it's on version 2 now..)

    unlike this one, it's got really terrible graphics.. but it's a really complete game industry 'tycoon' type game, and a lot of fun.. you can even sink huge amounts of money into creating your own hardware platform and bribe publishers to build console exclusives for you. :)

  • http://twitter.com/Michael_Adhi Michael Adhi Nugroho

    Still waiting for my iTouch 4 to be delivered but rest assure that this game will be the maiden app to break it open. I'm a fan of animated sprite games, took me back to where games are gameplay and not graphics benchmark.

  • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Phil Baxter

    Looks pretty interesting but it's obviously a port from a very, very old phone of some sort. The graphics don't even fill the iPhone screen...

  • Anonymous

    I've been playing this game for a couple of months now (it's been out in Japan for quite a while) and I always thought the company was making a big mistake by not localizing it. Good to see that they came to their senses!

  • Ratty75

    I don't generally like these games but I'm completely hooked on this game. Very entertaining and enjoyable

  • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Phil Baxter

    Okay, so this game is massively addictive. It just doesn't seem to matter that the visuals are so dated, it's fun!

  • AdamDork

    I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU SO MUCH!

    I can't stop playing this amazing game. Work is beginning to suffer, I planned to go to bed at 9:30 and next thing I know it is 11...crazy good! I got a coworker hooked and we just nerded out on our strategies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/geoffpburns Geoff Burns

    Yeah I got this game 2 days ago...luckily my boss can't see me when I'm at work, cause I swear that I spent easily 12 hours over the last 2 days "working" on this game! Its great! The drawbacks are of course the size of the graphics...my eyes have been hurting from playing it...and at first I thought the cost...but there is something so addicting to this game that I quickly was like man I would've paid more...plus there is nothing better than making the weirdest combination of games and getting to title them and see them sell more than 2,000K(i.e. 2,000,000, this is the one bug I found in the game.) I enjoyed it...hope they change the graphics to at least be full screen.

  • Izzynobre

    I WANT to get into this game but god damn, what a horrible presentation.

  • Anonymous

    Finally a game with a similiar concept to GameBiz!
    I tried it and I must say I like the graphic style used.
    This will sustain me until GameBiz 3's launch.

  • Matthew L.

    5 hours flat SOMEBODY STOP ME

  • Matthew L.

    5 hours flat SOMEBODY STOP ME

  • Dove Lwp

    any one know how to change the staff to hardware eng.

    • GeorgeJQ

      you need to level one of you employees to 5, then change roles and level until hes 5 in everything. then you can change roles to hardware eng.

  • http://twitter.com/hakanderyal Hakan Deryal

    Does anyone figured out how to develop console? No hardware engineer showed up ever and I'm about to finish the 2nd 20 year period.

  • David G

    To develop a HW console, hire "Mister X", and get him to level 5 on all available jobs. You can then switch his job to HW Engineer, and can build a console.

    • GeorgeJQ

      you can use anyone, not just mister x

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adrian-Werner/100000621679538 Adrian Werner

    The game is a port of japanese-only cellphone title, that's why it looks like that.

  • HipHopTouch

    This game is unbelievable.

    Best game, this has me more hooked than Space Miner did.

    Best title on the iPhone now, IMO. I have the majority of known apps too, so it's not overhyping (For a change) by all posts here. Get it.

  • Tohuva

    It's a port of a Japanese cell phone game. Go to the Kairosoft website, they have around 20 games just like it only released for Japanese cell phones. That's why the screen is an odd size, and why it's not graphically spectacular.

    It's also an amazing game, and I love it.

    • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

      So the old argument about how great Japanese cellphones are can finally be laid to rest, thanks.

  • sonic

    This game is really fun but after Year 10 all my games go straight to the hall of fame, there's no one better than my employees (outsourcing is useless) yet I can't still make my own console. Does anyone know how to do it?
    PS: I made the Saturn (Uranus) stay on the market for like 8 years and something

  • http://www.facebook.com/phwampfler Philippe Wampfler
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Artur-Roszczyk/1128746153 Artur Roszczyk

    So addicting! Great game! I would love more content like: even bigger office, more usable items from the salesman... Just more things so I could play even more! Whatever, I can't wait to release my console :D

  • Hayona2000

    Hay I just take it on , I am a big fan
    Of this game now if their any game just
    Like this pleas tell me and I like to ask
    You how can I change my console look ?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MENSXDBRVDLWCTQQSZ44LDLV5I Billy Ameno

    I'm just about to try this game and it looks good.

  • abhinav rathod

    An amazing game!! cant stop playing.. even at work!!!! :D

  • cimission

    Played until 4:10 AM. Good thing it's summer break or I'd be toast.

Game Dev Story Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 5