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Simulation Anything: The Strange World of Simulation Games

How many sim games are on the market? How obscure are they and is there place for a virtual chia pet/virtual salon?

Michael Smith

June 5, 2017

3 Min Read

Two weeks ago a friend approached me with a bizarre idea that he was convinced would make him a fortune. "It's all about baldness," he told me. "People are obsessed with it. And people were obsessed with chia pets back in the day. So, why not combine the two?"

The way his eyes lit up when he said this told me that he was incredibly excited about the idea, he had only just thought of it and was making it up as he went along, and he was incredibly high. The idea began as some kind of virtual chia pet and then warped into a virtual salon where hair growth would be the topic of the day.

Needless to say, my friend is not a developer. He is a writer, and one who spent his days writing for his hair growth site (I wonder where he got the idea). He was trying to get me to help him put the wheels in motion and to get this idea off the ground. When I refused, he offered me money. It's always hard to refuse money, but come on, a virtual salon? Surely that's an insane idea.

Major Sim Games

I told him that I needed time to think about it. So, I left him to his pot and his pipe dreams and I did some research. My only experience of sim games was being obsessed with Theme Hospital when I was a kid, and that was the game I had in my mind when he was telling me about his (eventual) idea for a virtual salon.

But the world of sim games was much bigger even back then and they have come a long way since. Some of the biggest selling games in history have been simulation games. The Sims has achieved every developer's wet dream, while Sim City, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Theme Hospital and Zoo Tycoon are not far behind. And then you have games like Farmville, which are essentially sim games for the online market.

As soon as I checked the sales figures for these games and understood that they are still selling today, I began to warm to the idea. But theme parks, hospitals and entire cities are one thing and a little hair saloon is another entirely. The question was, what was the precedent for smaller sim games?

Insane Sim Games

There are certainly stranger sim games on the market that have proved a success. Such is the case with fight sims, truck sims, taxi sims and even bus sims. But these are not point-and-click management games. They are glorified driving games. They might not be everyone's cup of tea and they might seem a little obscure to the popular marketplace, but it's easy to see how a market can exist for them.

It's also easy to see how a game where your own a virtual salon could exist as a small mobile game or app store purchase. After all, there are games where you run cafes, restaurants and retail stores. But these are short-lived, moderately popular and they rarely seem to make any money.

Of course, none of that was my concern and that's why I eventually choose to take on this job. After looking at those sim creations I realized that this could be a fun project and it could also be very easy to piece together. I'm not convinced that it will sell and it certainly won't be easy to market. But as a developer, that's something I need not worry about.

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