Playing SimCity BuildIt is Like Running a Company

Sometimes, we stumbled upon learning and wisdom in unexpected places. Who would have thought that a wacky 25 year old game remade for mobile will have many lessons to teach in business. Both of us at TheDredger.tv discovered it independently and we have been playing it since late December.

At the time of writing my city of Cyberjaya reached level 25 with population of 295,564 Sims while Azwin’s Winville is a level 23 city filled with 128,165 Sims. I took the hard way by not buying any In-App Purchase of SimCash while Azwin spent USD10 on the game.

Customer Satisfaction is Key to Success

Happy Sims will pay more taxes. In real life business, happy customers are less price-sensitive.

There’s So Many Metrics to Track!

You have level, population, multiple currencies and Sims happiness. While running a business you want to tracks sales, profit, units sold, number of customers, etc.

You’ll Always Be Tempted to Expand

Seeing so much land, you’ll be tempted to sprawl. Actually you just need a small fraction to build a great city. Played right, you can actually cram more people vertically rather than horizontally. The same thing goes for business, you don’t actually need a giant company to enjoy great profit.

Focus on Long Term Sustainable Profit and Not Just Quick Gains

Building new residential areas is a quick way to earn money (and level up). But it is only helpful up to a certain point. Higher lever cities will require more amenities. Level up too fast without the cash to spend on new facilities will lead to unhappy Sims and less tax revenue. So it’s better to slow down a bit but enjoy a steady revenue.

Similar dynamics also takes place in real life businesses. If you blindly expand, overhead will rise faster than revenue. On top of that, chasing new customers while neglecting the existing ones. That’s a sure recipe for disaster.

In SimCity BuildIt you can summon hostile aliens to attack your city!

Optimize What You Have First

It’s actually cheaper to boost population by enhancing the residential zones you already have rather than adding new ones. You need to supply water, power, fire, police, sewage, waste management & health services to new residential zones. Existing residential zones already have all that and just need extra facilities to boost the population.

The same thing goes for business, it’s better to optimize your current business rather than creating new product line or opening new branches.

Delayed Gratification Work Wonders

Do you want to build the Wind Power Plant now or save your Simoleon for the Deluxe Wind Power Plant? Cost per power unit is $1000 for the Wind Power Plant while it’s only $681.81 for the Deluxe version. You’ll be tempted to buy the Wind Power Plant now because you want to expand fast but expanding later usually leads to better growth to the city.

The option of Coal Power Plant is also more tempting at $375 per power unit but you are hit with a penalty of 10x10 dirty area. Mind you that Sims hate living in dirty area. So unless you have lots of free space, the cheap Coal Power Plant is actually a costly option.

When building your company similar dilemma also arises. Do you want to pay higher salary to yourself now or defer it so you can hire more people to help expand the company?

It Is Possible to Bootstrap to Build Something Great

As mentioned earlier, I managed to reach level 25 without any In-App Purchases. My city even have Sydney Opera House as it’s crown jewel. In fact I have surpassed Azwin in term of city level and population although he spent USD10 for SimCash. It’s just that I have to plan ahead, expand slower at first and really look for ways to optimize my city revenue.

Outside money in real life business is also like the In-App Purchase in SimCity BuildIt. It’s optional, you can grow your company without it. You just need to work harder and smarter.


When SimCity BuildIt first came out many players gave negative feedback. They said it is such a rip-off with such pricey In-App Purchases. Yes, it will rip you off if you want it to behave like the old game (ie; able to build so many buildings in one sitting). But then it is actually possible to play it differently — slow and steady instead of fast and furious. Think of playing it in term of days and weeks instead of hours and minutes. It’s like a Tamagotchi in the form of a city.

In a TED talk, Will Wright relates game to education in how it helps us to understand the principles in nature better than any reading could. If the objective of SimCity BuildIt is to teach about growing a business, we think it’s very succesful at it.


Epilogue

14 Feb 2015

After playing it for almost 2 months I reached level 30 which unlock the Landmark buildings. I spent the remaining Golden Keys on a Branderburg Gate landmark. Now my city is complete I don’t feel like continue playing it anymore. It’s time to spend the time building my real company!


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