Tycoon games, where are they now?

There was a brief period in PC gaming history where tycoon games were all the rage.  I guess the craze started after the release of RollerCoaster Tycoon back in 1999, but they've been around for many years.  Will Wright should be considered the founder of tycoon games thanks to his creation, SimCity... but Sid Meier and Chris Sawyer also pushed the simulation genre into several new directions.  Sid Meier took the city simulation genre and expanded it across civilizations and the railroad industry.  Chris Sawyer took on choo-choo trains, but also improved on the amusement park sim... although the Bullfrog joint, Theme Park, preceded it by several years.  I guess I shouldn't forget about Populous, a very important game in its own right, but I don't like giving Peter Molyneux any more praise than he deserves.

RollerCoaster Tycoon, an existential, isometric experience.
While SimCity, Populous, and Civilization were the big names in the neighborhood, they centered on something on a grand scale.  Running a city or civilization is one thing, but running a business is completely different.  Transportation sims had their chance in the spotlight, but it wasn't until RollerCoaster Tycoon that the "tycoon" stuck.  It's no secret that RollerCoaster Tycoon was a success... and millions of people like me bought into the capitalistic view of gaming and drooled over the keyboard for hours building the perfect ride or sculpting the ideal park for my guests.  However, soon after the success of the game leaked out, the imitators rushed the stage... and many of them had no reason to be even near the stage.

Oh I bought into the tycoon craze for a while... I stayed loyal to the RCT franchise, even into the Atari days... critics be damned!  I even bought some... "other" tycoon games.  I tested out Airport Tycoon and found it to be rather boring and broken, Zoo Tycoon wasn't my cup of tea, and Fast Food Tycoon was fun for a little while, but it was clear to me that not every business or establishment should be duplicated in tycoon form.

Over the next few years, we saw prisons, malls, lemonade stands, casinos, schools, skateboard parks, zoos, cruise ships, underwater colonies, hospitals, and even trailer parks tycooned.  Wait... trailer parks?  You're shitting me.

Mall of America Tycoon, just another nail in the tycoon coffin.
So what happened to these tycoon games?  Most of them were released between 2000 and 2004, sometime around the peak of RollerCoaster Tycoon's popularity.  Like all good things (8-bit 2D platformers, 90s fighting games, Wii minigames), oversaturation came into play and once they stopped printing money, they stopped making them.  Sure, there are a few leftovers hanging around and some establishments left untapped... I'm crossing my fingers for Mental Asylum Tycoon.  I can't say business simulations are dead, but the tycoon name surely is.

So, what are your thoughts on tycoon games?  Did you have a brief obsession with tycoon games like me or did you skip this little blip in PC gaming history?
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2 Comments
Posted by Dalai

There was a brief period in PC gaming history where tycoon games were all the rage.  I guess the craze started after the release of RollerCoaster Tycoon back in 1999, but they've been around for many years.  Will Wright should be considered the founder of tycoon games thanks to his creation, SimCity... but Sid Meier and Chris Sawyer also pushed the simulation genre into several new directions.  Sid Meier took the city simulation genre and expanded it across civilizations and the railroad industry.  Chris Sawyer took on choo-choo trains, but also improved on the amusement park sim... although the Bullfrog joint, Theme Park, preceded it by several years.  I guess I shouldn't forget about Populous, a very important game in its own right, but I don't like giving Peter Molyneux any more praise than he deserves.

RollerCoaster Tycoon, an existential, isometric experience.
While SimCity, Populous, and Civilization were the big names in the neighborhood, they centered on something on a grand scale.  Running a city or civilization is one thing, but running a business is completely different.  Transportation sims had their chance in the spotlight, but it wasn't until RollerCoaster Tycoon that the "tycoon" stuck.  It's no secret that RollerCoaster Tycoon was a success... and millions of people like me bought into the capitalistic view of gaming and drooled over the keyboard for hours building the perfect ride or sculpting the ideal park for my guests.  However, soon after the success of the game leaked out, the imitators rushed the stage... and many of them had no reason to be even near the stage.

Oh I bought into the tycoon craze for a while... I stayed loyal to the RCT franchise, even into the Atari days... critics be damned!  I even bought some... "other" tycoon games.  I tested out Airport Tycoon and found it to be rather boring and broken, Zoo Tycoon wasn't my cup of tea, and Fast Food Tycoon was fun for a little while, but it was clear to me that not every business or establishment should be duplicated in tycoon form.

Over the next few years, we saw prisons, malls, lemonade stands, casinos, schools, skateboard parks, zoos, cruise ships, underwater colonies, hospitals, and even trailer parks tycooned.  Wait... trailer parks?  You're shitting me.

Mall of America Tycoon, just another nail in the tycoon coffin.
So what happened to these tycoon games?  Most of them were released between 2000 and 2004, sometime around the peak of RollerCoaster Tycoon's popularity.  Like all good things (8-bit 2D platformers, 90s fighting games, Wii minigames), oversaturation came into play and once they stopped printing money, they stopped making them.  Sure, there are a few leftovers hanging around and some establishments left untapped... I'm crossing my fingers for Mental Asylum Tycoon.  I can't say business simulations are dead, but the tycoon name surely is.

So, what are your thoughts on tycoon games?  Did you have a brief obsession with tycoon games like me or did you skip this little blip in PC gaming history?
Posted by Daryl

Lonely blog, but I still like to bring out my copy of RCT2. I don't like RCT to be anything but 2D.