The enduring appeal of the sim/tycoon genre

It’s always fun to look back whenever a new console generation appears on the horizon, and very often you’ll end up reminiscing about games, franchises and genres that you wish would make a comeback. One genre that’s been consistently strong, however, is the ‘sim’/’tycoon’ genre – only growing in popularity in recent years with the continued success of games like Cities Skylines even branching out beyond their PC origins. What keeps these games on the forefront of our mind?

It’s a genre that suddenly boomed about thirty years ago, when Will Wright released SimCity and a pre-Civilization Sid Meier came out with Railroad Tycoon. Sid recently released his memoir as well, a good review of which can be found here.

grand casino tycoon

Besides the amazing in-joke of a title (Sid Meier’s Memoir), the book also talks about the early years of his career – including the well-known story about how MicroProse was formed together with Bill Stealey after a meeting in Las Vegas. A place that, in turn, is also an inspiration for tycoon games, as can be seen from our recent look at the upcoming Grand Casino Tycoon. Gambling’s a completely solid playing ground for videogaming anyway, since we’ve had casino games since the early days of gaming and even online casinos like Jackpot City casino have been around since 1998 – that’s when we were browsing using Internet Explorer 5 and when Google was founded!

Part of the appeal of Sim/Tycoon games is no doubt how easy it is for the genre (or genres, if you want to be strict about it) to branch out. Cities: Skylines has a ton of DLC content to help the game stay fresh by focusing on particular elements of the experience – like a nighttime setting, transportation needs or even natural disasters. That’s just variety within a single game experience though – this is a genre that allows developers to leapfrog to completely different settings as well.

cities skylines

A very recent example had us looking at a game where you simulate how to run a space agency, and the developers of the tower building sim/manager game Project Highrise (which in turn was inspired by Maxis’ SimTower) are now working on City of Gangsters, a game that simulates running a gangster empire.

Another reason for the success of the genre is that quite a few have gone “mainstream”, with ports to consoles and a much wider appeal than the hits from three decades ago, which were PC-centric with a few home computer ports only. Today’s market is being dominated by games like Cities: Skylines and Planet Zoo, both of which have console ports. The same is true for Sid Meier’s most iconic series as well, as Civilization VI received PS4 and Xbox One ports last year. That’s not a sim/tycoon game though, but perhaps we’ll see Meier return to the genre at some point. After all, it’s clear that it’s still going strong.

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