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Game Dev Tycoon is a business sim made by Daniel and Patrick Klug of Greenheart Games, two brothers from Australia with the goal of making a cheap, fun game that modeled itself after other Tycoon sims, and aimed to avoid certain business practices.

You start out in the 80's with little more than rudimentary technologies and your own ability; from there, gaming history will unfold, as strangely familiar companies step into the ring or fade into nothingness, while you advance from designing games alone in your garage to managing a big-name gaming giant of your own creation. Success is not easy to come by, however; your consumer base can be cruel, and gaming journalists even more so.

Noted for having a particularly creative and ironic anti-piracy feature, where if you pirated the game in Real Life, your in-universe game fails on account of copious amounts of digital piracy.

Available for Windows, Mac and Linux. The Windows and Mac versions were released on Steam (thanks to Greenlight) August 29, 2013 (a separate version for Windows 8 is also available through the Windows Store). They ran into difficulties with licensing of the libraries used by the game on the Linux platform, which not only delayed the release of the Linux version on Steam, but caused the existing pre-Steam versions of the game to get pulled as well (ironic considering that Linux is supposed to be the most liberal platform that they're coding for). The issue was settled in October 2, 2013 and the Linux version was finally released to Steam on the same day.

An iOS port was released in November 2017 and an Android port followed shortly after in February 2018. A Netflix version based of the mobile ports was released in March 2024, it adds the ability to make licensed games and have streamers review games

This game contains examples of:

  • 419 Scam: One Random Event is receiving an error-filled email from a Nigerian company offering to invest millions in your company in return for a "one-time verification payment of 120K". Unsurprisingly, it’s pure Schmuck Bait.
  • 20% More Awesome: Literally Invoked, but Averted in spirit. Your next game needs to be 20% better than your last 9.0 hit to score another 9.0+ review. Averted in that the game uses a complex 'quality rating' score that may seem vague and arbitrary, but isn't when you look under the hood.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: In-universe with regards to home consoles. A news article leading up to the release of the TES mentioned that many industry experts doubted that home consoles would be successful. The TES is then shown to be a huge hit and within a few years, home consoles become an integral part of the industry.
  • And Your Reward Is Interior Decorating: A big part of advancing is improving your workspace, as you'll go from working out of your own garage to gradually larger and nicer studios.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: When making a game and agreeing to an interview you may get a section asking if you consider one development priority in phase you haven't gotten to yet more important than another based on the genre of game you're making. If you read the resulting article it'll tell you which priority is more important for a successful game before you get to that phase.
  • April Fools' Day:
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • Happens by the truckload in the game, to both the platforms (i.e. Ninvento, Vena, Vony and Micronoft). It had to be done to write around trademarks.
    • If you release a game without naming it, you release it as "Game #x". In response, reviews might say "The name says it all" or "As generic as the name", (or possibly "Better than the name" if the game is actually good).
  • Broad Strokes:
    • How this game's timeline tends to skip over events in gaming history, despite reflecting most of it. The Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance are all essentially treated as the same console. In addition, a good part of Sega's history is pretty much skipped over with the Sega Saturn being completely non-existent.
    • It also lumps in Apple Computers as just another PC maker note , and completely skips over Atari. Also, Godovore goes bankrupt after the C64-expy when in real life Commodore did release another top-selling computer that stayed in market for about a decade before being driven to bankruptcy by an embargo on the CD32 in the US.
    • The early-80s computer choices are limited to the PC and the C64 — no hint of the ZX Spectrum or the Amstrad CPC, although both were massive in Europe.
  • Broke the Rating Scale: If you manage to develop a perfect game (and the formula is rather precise), a reviewer will give you an 11/10 rating. There is, of course, an achievement for doing it. Spending years building new technology and a hot new engine is your best bet, as is waiting until the post-game so you have the money to do it.
  • Captain Ersatz: The game uses this as the equivalent of Bland-Name Product when it comes to staff names. Again, to avoid possible legal problems with the real deal.
    • One famous programmer who may be available for hire is "Kevin Flin"
  • Colon Cancer: Averted in both the game's title and the gameplay. The game gives you a fair amount of room for your game titles, but not enough to invoke this trope much for your own games.
  • Console Cameo: Since the timeline of the game reflects the actual history of video games, we get to see parodies of the big four's systems, as well as a rather popular brand of mobile phone in the game's latter half.
  • Christmas Rushed: Can happen in-universe, as you might be tempted to release the game the second as the development ends, with zero debugging. This usually means your company is in dire financial needs and even a bugged game will be better than nothing - plus you can release a patch post-release.
  • Desperation Attack: If your bank account dips below a certain amount note , the bank can offer to give you a sizable loan to stave off bankruptcy, enough to get you out of the red and with just enough money to make one more (not feature-complete) game, but the catch is that you need to pay them back double the amount in a year's time. Doubles as a Death or Glory Attack as your options upon accepting the loan basically boil down to either making a hit game that rockets you back to financial stability or going bust trying.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil:
    • One possible event is getting a notice about one of your (still-on-the-shelf) games being pirated. You can do nothing about it or try to sue, but it's a Morton's Fork: no matter which option you choose, the piracy will continue to undercut your sales for the title, and the outcome is essentially the same, with a news story running about the increasing damage to game companies caused by piracy.
    • Actually utilized as a creative deterrent for real pirates. A version that was purportedly leaked (actually released to Pirate Bay by the developers themselves) would, halfway through the game, trigger an event where the pirates stealing from you in game cannot be stopped. They steal from you more and more, and essentially make the game impossible to win. A later update to the real game allows you to activate these events as a Self-Imposed Challenge, though with options for mitigating it by developing various forms of Copy Protection (which will upset your fans, of course).
  • Disney Owns This Trope: You may get contacted by patent trolls claiming to own extremely basic concepts used in your latest game. They give you two possible options: either pay a certain amount of money to have them leave you alone or take the matter to court. However, you can also Take the Third Option and attempt rallying your fanbase, which, if successful, is not only free of charge but also makes your company more popular.
  • Double Unlock: Triple Unlock in this case. You must reach a certain skill level to unlock research for a game aspect. Then you have to spend time, money and research points to actually research it, THEN you have to build a brand new game engine and include the feature in it. Once you do all that, you can include that feature in your game. Luckily this sounds harder than it actually is, and you usually have more features available to research than you can feasibly include in your next engine anyway, so you'll always have something to do.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect:
    • The Criteria used to judge your games is based on your last best 9.0 reviewed game. Innovate and improve TOO much and you will struggle to get good ratings with your future games. Where as if you improve yourself just a bit with each game, you can get back-to-back good reviews as your target score gradually climbs.
    • There's an achievement for getting "A Perfect Ten" in reviews. Scoring above ten (like getting 10, 10, 10 and 11) does not unlock it (but will unlock the "up to eleven" achievement).
  • Endless Game: After you "finish" the game, you can choose to continue, for as long as you want. No new story elements (such as new consoles being introduced or old ones leaving the market) will be introduced, but this is the only way to get the "Unobtanium" achievement, which requires selling 100 million copies of a game without publisher supportnote .
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: The game begins with you starting up a game development company, by yourself, in your garage.
  • Executive Meddling: An In-Universe mechanic in the form of publisher contracts. These contracts can, but won't necessarily, specify genre, category, system, and age group. Any one of these can be a preselected combo that, even with the best development in the world, can tank review scores. Sometimes they will pick bad combos, sometimes they won't, and sometimes they'll pick combos that requires the player know what else to add to the development to make it good or else be doomed to a flop.
  • Fan Work: There is an in-game event where your lawyers say that a group of fans have produced a non-profit fan-game using assets from one of your older titles. You can either shut the fan game down or leave it alone. Can be seen as a Take That! to companies who kill harmless fan games as leaving the fan game alone gives you more fans, who increase the sales of your games.
  • Four-Point Scale: Played with. Make a game bad enough and, even if it's completely bug-free, you can expect it to see reviewers give it 5/10 or less. Since reviewers don't discriminate on game size, making a small game after an AAA one is a good way to be rated 1/10! The scale isn't kind, with reviewers saying that anything below an 8 is unremarkable at best, but it is a true ten-point scale: any score above a 5 (even a 5.25) will probably make its money back and gain new fans (though not many), while anything at a 5 or less is likely to lose money and more importantly, will result in fans giving up on your company. As fans are vital to your long-term success, that can hurt more than losing the money.
  • Game Mod: Version 1.4.5 onwards introduced the ability to mod the game (for adding new consoles and new genres among other things). Steam Workshop integration was added in the version released in August 2014.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • A common complaint as many of the calculations that determine your success or failure are done under the hood and hidden from the player, requiring a reference wiki if you want to fine-tune your play. That said, a guide is NOT required to make it through to the end using common-sense tactics and strategies.
    • The Steam release peeled back a large number of these requirements. Now, you have the ability to do a game report which, in addition to giving you research points, will also give you an idea of what works and what doesn't when it comes to the style of game you just created. So, for example, you can determine that Engine is extremely important for a Simulation game, or that Mature games sell well on PC. These hints are visible in subsequent games that you make, allowing you to tailor the development to a better game.
  • Indie Game: Greenheart Games is a small start-up comprised of only two brothers, so this definitely qualifies. You start out making games this way yourself in the early stages of the game.
  • Irony: Despite being a successful small, indie game done by a tiny start-up of a Sibling Team, the game itself absolutely abhorred the idea: your company is only ever allowed to be the ever-growing gaming industry's giant, and as the game progresses, anything less than an AA game will be heavily penalised. Including the fact that the game would fail you for trying to recreate itself, unless making it on a massive budget and with the use of cutting-edge graphics and engine. To make things worse, a similarly themed Mad Games Tycoon made it perfectly viable to remain a small indie studio operating from a small office that makes quirky little games and bigger projects interchangeably, using separate rating system for each budget range.
  • Isometric Projection: The game is using a retraux 2.5D perspective, with your entire office space being 3D, but filled with 2D objects.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: In-Universe: the in-game critics value innovation and releasing two games of the same genre/topic combo in a row will hurt your review scores, even if the second is literally a sequel of the first.
  • Jack of All Stats: Some employees can be trained like this. The player character is this by default when they're able to start training themselves and their employees. It's up to them though whether they wish to keep themselves that way or focus on a specific skill or more.
  • Just One More Turn: Can definitely have this effect. The game allows you to play beyond the 'end' (when your score is tallied), though no further story developments happen past that point.
  • Killer App: In-universe, if you release an extremely high-rated game for your self-developed console, expect sales of the console to spike. In fact, it is pre-requested to make your own console successful - its development and production are going to be money sinks for your company without providing at least 3-5 solid games that go along with it.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The developers leaked a version of their game onto the Pirate Bay where, when the pirate went far enough, their company would go bankrupt due to their games being pirated.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The player character starts off with really good stats in speed, design, and tech. Your second-in-command (if you hire one) can grow into this, as your company matures.
  • Macrogame: Partial example. As you make games and develop game reports, you'll gather more information about how genres, audiences, platforms, and other factors interact—for example, you may learn that Sci-Fi/RPG is a good combination. This information will appear when you create further games, and in subsequent playthroughs (unless you choose the option to turn this off, so as not to have an unfair advantage). So you won't start off a new game with buckets of money, talent, or a shiny new office, but you can start with a load of valuable information about how to tailor your games that a "clean" new game wouldn't have.
  • New Game Plus: Whether you win or lose, you can choose to have all of your knowledge learned transferred into a new game. This means you'll start back to the beginning with only the PC and G64 to work with, but you will still have compatibility signs of platforms and genres to a specific console and any slider clues during development. The catch is that you'll be starting with 4 random platforms, and you are not guaranteed to have the ones with those signs.
  • Nintendo Hard: Depending on how you play, your playthrough can end up as this. Unlike say Game Dev Story, funds are taken monthly instead of yearly, employees salaries increase as they level up, And you lose money for failing a contract.
    • Piracy Mode seriously invoked this, as you must maintain copyright protection to risk going backrupt quickly.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: During recruitment process, it is possible to get one of the famous, real-world game designers into your company. They all come with slightly changed names and significantly higher skills than other options.
  • Not Completely Useless: Deliberately picking bad publishing deals, especially when relatively new to the game. At first glance, they are a net loss of time and workforce delegated to the project, along with being low profit and/or involving a bad combination of console, genre and topic. They do, however, allow you to collect data on exactly how bad the combo is (and even discover it isn't bad at all), and because said combo always provides the additional multiplier for experience due to not having been used previously, while still being paid for your work. It also provides raw research points. But the real reason to bother is because of how the ratings are calculated: if you produce drivel, you can easily artificially boost the ratings of your next 2-3 games because the reviewers will still compare it to your engineered failure. If you made that game on your own, you would be losing money. But since the publisher offers you an up-front production fee, it covers your expenses and any extra money the game earns is pure profit, even if underperforming.
  • Rags to Riches: Though "rags" may be pushing it (you start the game with tens of thousands of dollars in startup capital), you can go from developing games alone in your garage to owning a million-dollar company competing with the biggest names in the video game industry.
  • Riches to Rags: You must avert this at all costs. You are allowed to overdraw money in hopes of making a profit, but if you hit the overdraw threshold, you'll risk suffering bankruptcy, resulting in a Game Over. You'll likely get a Desperation Attack opportunity if you're on the brink, but are required to pay it back at a given time.
  • Rated M for Money: Played with In-Universe. You can designate your games for young players, everyone or mature players. Making Mature games will give you a bonus to sales on some platforms, but a big penalty to sales on others. Invoked in that your very first mature game will get a little bonus hype simply because it is a mature game.
  • Recursive Reality: You get an achievement for making a game titled Game Dev Tycoon with a matching genre and subject, as well as another one for calling your company Greenheart Games.
  • Reviews Are the Gospel: invoked In-game example. Magazines review your games upon release, and can heavily sway its sales for better or worse. Once you've built up a large fanbase and have a strong production team, average scores don't hurt so much - but truly awful scores will always tank profits. However, when starting out, all your games will be considered mediocre, but that doesn't scare away gamers from your first attempt at a game.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: It can be easy to gain 1 million to be able to move from the garage to the office, but lack of planning and shipping low ranked games can not only drain your funds quick, but lead to bankruptcy.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • The TES (The Expy for the NES) comes out early in the game and grabs a superior market share, allowing the player to develop games for it. The bait part? Only Young-focused casual games do well on it, and the player doesn't get the ability to research either target demographics or casual games before a good amount of time after it has been released.
    • The Nigerian Scam event qualifies as one as well.
    • Some of the publishing deals offered are this. The deal may call for a game that will not sell well on the platform, not go well with the target audience group, or overall a weird topic/genre combo that wouldn't fly, but people will fall for it because the required rating may appear low and/or the promised return in cash sounds good, and thus they lose cash when fined by the publisher because the game doesn't meet the required ratings for obvious reasons. And even if the ill-advised game squeaks by with enough rating to avoid the fine, you're still much worse off than if you had just accepted a lower royalty from a publisher who lets you do a game right.
  • Sequel Gap: Possible to do in-universe, and there's no penalty for making a sequel to a game that's years or even decades old. In fact, it's actually a bit easier to get a high score on a sequel to an old game, as critics are likely to praise the new game having a more advanced engine than the years-old original.
  • Shout-Out: So, so many. But the standout example is this, made even better by how it is something he would actually say:
    Dave Johnson here, CEO of Departure Science. Some of our test subjects were recently exposed to some of your games and, surprisingly, they didn't go totally insane.
  • Simulation Game: Of the business management variety.
  • Super Title 64 Advance: In-game example. You may choose to name your games like this.
  • Take That!:
    • Several towards piracy, as mentioned above.
    • Several are taken towards EA even outside of the April Fools' post; for instance, if you lose, you might be told that you were bought out by an EA Expy and have been going downhill ever since.
    • The 2014 April Fools joke is one huge Take That! against Allegedly Free Games on the mobile platform.
    • Another possible company that can buy you out if you lose is a fictional counterpart of Zynga.
    • The game seems to aim a few at Sony... sorry, Vonny, as well- The blame for the split with Nintendo is laid at their feet, as is the blame for causing the death of the Dreamcast, much is made of the controversial launch of the PS3, and the announcement of the PSP is implied to be timed to try to sabotage the success of the Nintendo DS.
  • Unstable Equilibrium:
    • Getting a string of hit games can leave the player with enough cash that bankruptcy is very unlikely. There are still things in the later game that can bankrupt a previously cash-rich player if they are careless, but a frugal player can keep their funds high.
    • Hiring an employee with almost all their skill in Tech is a guaranteed way to get Tech/Design ration of your games above 1, which is normally near-impossible to do and also pre-requested for high-rated Action, Strategy and Simulation games (along with their multi-genre variants). The hard part is to first scout for such an employee, and that can come with quite a steep cost in early game.
  • Unwinnable by Design: For players using pirated copies, their company will inevitably go under when their games start getting pirated. This is later added to the official game, known as Pirate Mode, which subverts the system from unwinnable to Nintendo Hard and require you to play smarter to make up for the potential sales lost.
  • Video Game Genres: There is a large selection to choose from when deciding on what kind of game you want to make. You start out with only a handful, but quickly gain more as your research progresses. Some combinations will make critics hate your game, however.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Due to the game mechanics, there are combinations and strategies that are viable in real-life, but not so much here. Thankfully, Green Heart games have managed to make much more sensible topic/genre combos through updates.
    • There are a couple Topic/Genre combos that the game treats as 'Bad', Such as Time Travel + RPG, that otherwise have RL examples of why that combo would actually be goodnote .
    • According the game, alternate history is a good topic for action games and RPG but history is only good for simulation and strategy.
    • Porting a game from one console to another gets you bad ratings for being formulaic, despite RL examples like LucasArts doing so very successfully.note 
    • Releasing games of the same topic/genre combo back to back is considered bad (unless said topic happens to be popular at the time), never mind that some companies actually make a living churning out games of the same topic/genre continuously, and are actually successful at doing so, ie The Touhou Project. The game places enormous emphasis on innovation.
    • No matter how improved a sequel is, if the original game got terrible reviews, the next will be poorly reviewed, too. Unless you make a sequel In Name Only.
    • Thanks to the way adding "extra features" works, it's entirely possible to make games that are missing some extremely rudimentary features without having them tank horribly. Making an RPG for the Playsystem 4 without a save feature? Sure, why not. note 
    • Multiplayer doesn't even become available as a research option until several years into the game. Multiplayer was the basis of the entire games industry as before the invention of AI the only opponents a gamer could play against was another gamer- the first games ever made such as Space War and Pong were multiplayer games!
  • Writer on Board: The Klug brothers have some personal objections against Sony as a company. As a result, the game constantly blames everything wrong in specific eras of gaming on Sony's stand-in. More importantly, those jabs serve no real purpose or don't translate into gameplay - they are simply there.
  • You Have Researched Breathing:
    • It takes about an in-game decade before you are able to research the concept of sequels. And even longer to be able to research the concept of adding Easter Eggs.
    • In early versions of the game, you also have to research the ability to have a game be controlled by a mouse. This comes after making things like joysticks and steering wheels, when one would think that the mouse would come first. A case of Reality Is Unrealistic, actually. Joysticks as we know them (electrical contacts and all) date to the 1920s, while the computer mouse didn't make it to market until the late 1960s- heck, the computer mouse remained a niche up until the mid 80s, when GUI-based operating systems went mainstream (with the introduction of the Amiga, Apple Macintosh and Atari ST). Commodore 64s and PCs supported joysticks before then. And even then, mice didn't become mainstream among PC users until Windows 3.0 was introduced in the early 90s.