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Tycoon Games: Themes and Sub-genres


Where are the opportunities? What kind of Tycoon game is most likely to succeed? We researched the best performing Tycoon games to get insights into the themes and game mechanics most likely to produce a popular Tycoon game.

Tag Analysis

An analysis of the additional tags used by the Top 40 performing Tycoon games (based on on 2023/10/13) shows clearly that successes in the genre are skewed towards fun, casual gameplay rather than more complex or combat based tags.

Tags used alongside Tycoon tag in Top 40 Tycoon games
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Theme Analysis

The Purpose of Theme in Fortnite Tycoon Games

Discovery ​The current Discover experience means that games must attract a player using their icons only: there’s no opportunity advertise on-platform. A game’s theme should catch a players attention and get them to give the game a try.
Visual Impact ​Theme is reinforced to varying degrees within the map experience. Early popular Tycoon games, like Superhero Tycoon, had extremely simple graphics that had very little to do with the game’s theme. More recent Tycoon games use custom game assets to reinforce the game’s central idea. There is still a great deal of variation on how much visual polish appears in these maps, however, and some explore their theme much more deeply than others.
Gameplay Elements ​The core mechanic of all Tycoon maps is “number go up,” but increasingly maps contain elements borrowed from many different genres (eg. Boss Fight, Gambling/Gatcha, Obstacle Course, etc.). Popular Tycoon maps also increasingly draw inspiration for gameplay elements from their theme (examples: cleaning animal poop in Zoo Tycoon, editing videos in Youtuber Tycoon, etc.).

What themes are most popular in Fortnite?

Games seem to find success with themes that:
use building (Minecraft block style, Mansion or Island, City style) to give dramatic visual feedback on ‘number-go-up’
themes that reference common fantasy video-game environments and tropes.
Theme distribution of sampled Fortnite games
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What themes are popular in Roblox but under-represented in Fortnite?
Finding themes that work well but haven’t found their way into Fortnite yet might present good opportunities.
War/Military is the most unbalanced category - lots of players in Roblox, but fairly few in Fortnite. This is likely because some of the gameplay expectations of the more complex combat mechanics in Roblox war games currently aren’t possible in Fortnite, and the heavier PvP focus does not seem to be what Fortnite players are looking for.
% of Players per theme, Roblox vs Fortnite Top 75
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Another cluster of unbalanced categories is build related - Mansions, Island, City and Minecraft/Block style are all strongly popular Roblox categories that aren’t over saturated in Fortnite. More balanced categories include, Shops/Store and Horror - these seem like themes with consistent appeal across both games. There is another cluster is around more feminine-oriented themes: princess, pet etc - however it’s likely the current male-skewed audience of Fortnite does not make games with these themes viable.

Sub-Genre Analysis

What defines a Tycoon game? What makes one Tycoon game different from another?

Income Generation type

All tycoon games depend on accumulating some kind of resource or currency. There are a number of ways that games enable players to generate income fall into two broad categories
Passive. Income accumulates automatically and then is either:
added directly to the player wallet
collected by the player by pressing a button/visiting a location
Active. Players must engage in a game action to generate income, either:
mining/resource gathering
PvE combat (usually killing zombies)
minigame - completing platforming challenges, etc.
modal - entering a ‘modal’ game state - e.g. sitting at a computer screen, which does not require any further input from the player, but does take them out of normal gameplay mode
Overwhelmingly, the games surveyed used a combination of active and passive income generation (70%)

Currencies

All Tycoon games have a core currency which is generated at an increasing rate. While 40% of those surveyed still only have this single core currency, it’s increasingly common for games to have multiple, mutually exclusive currencies - meaning currencies which can’t be used for the same purpose.

# of currencies in Fortnite Tycoon games.
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Combat Elements

Although Fortnite is a PvP focused game, there are no popular Tycoon games which require PvP. A number make it possible (around 20% of games surveyed), but in most it is strongly deprioritized. Even in games which offer direct rewards for PvP (e.g. Zoo Tycoon) it’s still rare for players to take part, which reflects the finding of the tag analysis (Casual, Just For Fun, etc.) which indicates that players are coming to Tycoon for a break from combat. PvE is more common, with more than 55% of games surveyed including it. It’s worth noting that many games (45%) include no combat at all.
Combat types in top 20 games
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Data

Tycoon Tags
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Theme Type
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Raw Roblox Tycoon Games (per /www.roblox.com at 11am on Oct 17th)
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Raw Fortnite Tycoon Games (per fortnite.gg at 11.30am Oct 17th)
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