Tiny Tycoons on iOS moves slowly, but has great potential

Earlier this month, we brought you a preview of The Tap Lab's Tiny Tycoons, the then upcoming free-to-play iOS city-builder that mixes geolocation with Monopoly-style property acquisition to give every player a chance to form his or her own real estate catalog. Now that Tiny Tycoons has gone live on the iTunes App Store, we've found that this is one game with a lot of potential, but also some map issues to work out.

Tiny Tycoons gives players the chance to purchase real world businesses, like their favorite restaurants or stores, using virtual coins. Coins are earned by repeatedly completing jobs which fall into just a few categories. Taking a cue from games like the old Facebook game Mafia Wars, Tiny Tycoons is all about repetition, as you'll need to repeatedly tap on a job to complete it, earning a bit of mastery and a few coins each time you do. Jobs in restaurants earn you progress towards becoming a top chef, while jobs in shops may earn you progress towards becoming a "district manager," as examples.

The great thing about these jobs is that your progress carries over across all buildings of that same type. Your in-game avatar (which can be customized in terms of clothing, hairstyle, etc.) will walk across a map which pulls in real-world businesses and roads, so if you happen to find your avatar is a section that only contains one restaurant, for example, you can earn just as much progress on those overall restaurant quests as if your avatar were standing near a dozen.


Unfortunately, even if you know where a location is in the real world, there's a huge possibility that it will be located a block or more away from its actual location on the in-game map, leaving you to search the map for where the building was placed. Furthermore, tons of businesses are mis-categorized, or are even given duplicates on the map. When speaking with the developer, we learned that this is an issue caused by the game's use of Foursquare to populate maps. Since Foursquare relies heavily on user-generated locations, this explains the appearance of duplicate or mis-categroized businesses, and it's something that The Tap Lap is working with Foursquare to improve. If all else fails, a search menu will allow players to find a specific business manually if they can't find it on the map.

While earning coins is an instant process so long as you have the energy to complete jobs, each real world business in Tiny Tycoons is pretty expensive. It's unclear as to what formula is used to determine a business's price, but some - even in small towns - can cost 55,000 coins or more. That may not sound like a large amount when compared to the economies of other city-builders, but here in Tiny Tycoons, you start with just over 1,000 coins, and earn around 50-100 coins for each job completed. Update: We've learned that businesses receive higher prices based on check-in counts, so even businesses in small towns can be rather expensive simply due to the number of people that check-in to it via Foursquare.

In theory, these prices are so high due to the game's Monopoly-like business system. Unlike games like MyTown 2, which allow multiple players to purchase a single business, Tiny Tycoons is a one-and-done system, so this encourages players to save their coins for a business that they really, really want, rather than purchasing everything in sight. Furthermore, it also encourages traveling with the game, which is accomplished via virtual plane tickets. If you've always wanted to purchase a famous building in another city, you can do that, but again, only if you've saved enough coins over time to actually afford it.

Some businesses cost less, at 5,500-10,000 coins, but those are still expensive prices (we've personally yet to find a business that costs less than 5,500 coins, but businesses at the 5,000 coins level do exist). A new player won't be able to purchase a business in Tiny Tycoons for a few hours or even a day or more, which seems so downright odd considering that creating a real estate empire is the entire point of playing the game. Of course, you can purchase coins with real world money to instantly afford a business, if that's something that you're interested in.

Given the game's expensive business pricing, Tiny Tycoons takes a while to really get going. It's a game with a ton of potential for entertainment and true empire building, but it takes a while to start growing your empire due not only to the expensive businesses, but also the energy system. The new user-experience here would do much better with a boost in players' starting coins, and luckily, the developers are apparently working on a new update that will help even things out a bit.

Founder and CEO at the Tap Lab, David Bisceglia, had this to say: "We will be giving our players a bit of a boost early on. There's always room for improvement. We are working on perfecting that initial user experience and want to make sure all of our players are delighted. It shouldn't feel skewed or slow. We want property ownership to be aspirational – something players are excited to work towards."

Even with Tiny Tycoons initially issues, it's clear that the Tap Lab is passionate about the experience, and that definitely makes this one to watch.

Download Tiny Tycoons on iOS >

Have you tried Tiny Tycoons on iOS? Have you already been able to afford your first business? Sound off in the comments!

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