Retrospective – Game Dev Story (Mobile)

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Have you ever felt like you should have a job in the gaming industry? Do you want to make your own games? Did you ever feel like you could do a way better job running your own video game company than the likes of EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, or even Nintendo? If so, then I have just the game for you, and it is appropriately titled Game Dev Story.

Originally released on Japanese PCs in 1997, Game Dev Story didn’t see a surge of popularity until 2010 when it was released on iOS and Android devices. Since then, it has skyrocketed on the charts and has spawned many more games from the same company, all with a similar simulation style of gameplay. Having played most of them, you can certainly see that they are polished, well-presented, and addicting little games to play; however, my heart will always be with Game Dev Story as my favorite mobile game ever.

This is the game that convinced me that I needed a smartphone – or, at the very least, a smart device. In 2012, I acquired a used iPod Touch that was already obsolete by the time I got it. The most important thing to me at the time was whether or not it could play this game that I had heard so much about. I remember hearing on a TON of gaming podcasts at the time talking about this quirky Japanese game company simulator, only available on phones. From what everybody said on these podcasts, this game was basically right up my alley.

Right from the start, I was absolutely hooked. The graphics are done in a cute “sprite-work” style, and presented in an isometric viewpoint, not too unlike the kind you would see with classic SNES games, but obviously updated for a more modern aesthetic. The music is fairly minimal and unobtrusive and certainly nothing to write home about; it serves its purpose and that’s about it. The sound effects are fairly satisfying and appropriate for the moments they are used, although some of those beeps and boops can get a little jarring when you are not expecting it.

The heart of this game, however, lies in the gameplay. As the new president of an up-and-coming gaming development company, you are charged with developing your own unique games for various console generations. The main goal is to win a “Game of the Year” award by the end of the 20-year timeline that the game sets up for you, not too unlike how you have a limited amount of years in various Harvest Moon games to get your farm up to snuff. The types of games you create and which consoles you develop for are entirely up to you. Not only that, but you have to manage the other elements surrounding your game release to try and make as big of a splash with your game as possible. Running ads in newspapers, making commercials, taking on contracts for other developments, and many more of these types of marketing activities help to boost the popularity of your studio and the reception of your game with both the masses and the media.

One of the best parts of this game is the fact that you have complete control over the type of game you want to create. You get to choose the genres, mix-and-match them, create the titles, and hire professionals to help you work on different aspects of the game (art, music, programming, etc) that you think will help you sell as many copies as possible. Want to create a ninja dating game? A mahjong pirate game? A sumo role-playing game? The possibilities seem endless, and different combinations will appeal to different audiences on different systems. While it would be nice to see an actual visual of the titles you are creating, it still feels hilarious when your Lawyer Action game wins awards and gets great reviews from all of the various gaming magazines. And while it can get a little long-winded and repetitive over the course of the 20-year in-game time span, the game does diversify what you are doing so as to better manage your resources and develop for new and improved gaming systems.

If mobile games are not your cup of tea, then you are in luck with Game Dev Story: it has been on the Nintendo Switch since 2018! While it is a bummer that you cannot play this game on any other modern gaming device (not even PC, surprisingly enough), the pick-up-and-play nature of its gameplay and its mobile roots are best experienced on-the-go for those few minutes you have waiting in a grocery line. And since it is frequently on sale, do yourself a favor and pick it up! Your life as a video game developer begins now.

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