Economies of Scale
is a free, web-based multiplayer business/commerce simulation game under development by Scott Rubyton (aka Ratan Joyce). Players use starting capital to build production/wholesale/retail businesses from the ground up in a basic economic model, competing for market share while collaborating through business-to-business trading of goods and materials. It's more fun than getting an MBA! Also much less expensive.
The game is not overly complicated to play, and has a brief tutorial that covers the core bits, but it can be a little dizzying to figure out how the pieces interact at first, so here's a quick breakdown:
- There are three kinds of facilities you can build: Factories, such as plantations (grow raw fruits and veg!) or food processing plants (turn raw crops into processed ingredients!) or beverage factories (turn ingredients into consumable beverages!); Stores, which you can stock with niche-specific (farmer's market, sporting goods, high-tech gadgets) inventory that you've produced or purchased and resell it at retail at a price you fix; and R&D, buildings that research ingredients (wheat) or products (bread rolls) or processes (sugar refinement) to raise the overall quality of what your factories produce. A business might use only one or all three types of facilities, depending on what segment of the market it's aiming at.
- There's a simulated international import/export wholesale market (which buys low and sells high, prices updated nightly, good for moving surplus product at small but reliable margins), a simulated retail market (which buys Store inventory based on quality of product and current market saturation/demand), and a wholly player-driven B2B market where players can buy things being sold by other players. A business might rely primarily on one of these markets to move product or on a mix; likewise, businesses might produce their own materials or rely on the B2B or import market to get their source materials.
- Every facility produces output based on its current size; new facilities are 10 square meters, and can be expanded in increments of one square meter, with facility output currently directly proportional to the size of the facility (so stores sell proportionally more inventory, factories produce proportionally more product, R&D researches proportionally faster). Choosing when to invest in greater square footage (meterage?) for one or more of your facilities can be an important part of growing your business once you've got some revenue established.
- The game covers a wide variety of industries under the same general template; businesses can get into everything from fresh produce to chemical refining, haberdashery to airplane manufacturing. Finding a market that isn't already over-saturated and focusing on doing one sort of thing well is a good way to start a business that makes really solid profits. (Everyone in the game starts with a fruit farm; consider anything other than being a fruit farmer
as a long-term goal!)
A few misc. helpful newbie tips:
- The game makes a distinction between the player and their company; you can transfer cash that your player is holding to your company's cash-on-hand by visiting the Bank in the City.
- There's a "welfare center" link at the bottom of the page that dispenses a small but nothing-to-sneeze-at bit of cash once daily; if you need another $100K to keep things liquid and don't mind a handout, drop by. (And then check your bank account!)
- You can start any sort of business you like, but picking one thing to start with and doing it well with maybe three or four total facilities will give you more spare cash and flexibility to build up those individual facilities as you learn than trying to start up an entire vertical supply chain from scratch and spending most of your starting cash on a bunch of different 10 square meter facilities.
- Materials used in a factory's production run are locked up when production starts, and the produce of that run doesn't go into your warehouse until it's done (so you won't see a real-time trickle of new inventory). If you need some materials for something else, or need to get at the output of production, you can interrupt production by clicking on the factory and hitting the big red X button. This has essentially no cost. Don't feel trapped! You can safely start a big production run knowing you'll probably interrupt it at some point.
- While you're still a smallish business (so at least the first few days of gameplay), you can instantly finish building or expanding a facility for free. This perk goes away when you get your feet under you, but it's great at the beginning for letting you get right back to making/selling/researching stuff instead of having to wait for a construction to finish.
- In a pinch, you can resell facilities for about 2/3rds of their cost. You'll take a bit of a bath, but if you decide to streamline your business or change industries, don't be afraid to liquidate stuff you aren't using and reinvest in something you actually want.
The game plays out in real time, so most of what you do is set things up and then let them do their thing, checking back in now and then to set up new production runs or update a store's inventory, or to shop on the B2B market in case there's a good deal on something other players are selling. More of a daily-checkin game than something you'll need to spend a bunch of time at a sitting on; if your business model is simple enough you could spend about five minutes once a day just restarting production runs once things are going smoothly.