All this thinking about Acquire reminded me that I never got around to trying Capitalism 2, a game that I once bought for Mark Nau's birthday because of the title alone. (He used to have a "I love Capitalism" sign in his office.) Anyhow, he said it was pretty cool.
So I'm playing the downloadable demo this weekend, and it's one of those so-addictive-that-I-start-neglecting-my-family-and-pissing-off-my-wife-and-staying-up-too-late games, like A-Train or SimCity. I ran out of demo version missions and replayed the last mission over and over trying differen stragies. The sheer scope is huge: you can run a retailer, a manufacturer, a farm, an oil well, or all of the above; you can speculate in the stock of your competitors; you can invest in real-estate, drive up land values by building there, and then sell. You can buy television stations. For armchair CEO's like myself, it's awesome - it really taps into the fantasy - and it goes hand-in-hand with the stuff I've been learning reading books like these.
I get to try different strategies. Compete in an unestablished market - blue ocean - or try to take market share from an already succesful company - sort of like, say, Blizzard did with WarCraft and World of Warcraft. You can choose branding strategies: individual brands like Proctor & Gamble or use "range brands" and line-extend. You can compete on price or quality or brand recognition. You can be all Jack Welch and decide that you'll eliminate any products that aren't market leaders. I'm dying to play it multiplayer (and hope I can find someone to play it with.) You can't do everything - there doesn't seem to be a way to be Wal*Mart, and use your retail power to drive down supplier prices - and you can't do mail-order, so you can't be Dell, either.
According to the Enlight website, it's been used in some MBA classes at prestigious schools, and I can see why.
Looking at it more as a game designer and less as a capitalist wannabe, I'm impressed by the abstraction, how any link on the chain from mining natural resources to retail can be described by a "layout" of connections between supply units, manufacturing units, sales units, etc.
I don't have access to PC sales data but I imagine this game didn't sell all that well. I don't know if it was protiftable or not. The barrier to entry is high - you can see from the first review on Amazon.com that at least one person was stymied, even though they clearly put a lot of work into the tutorial. I met Rob Pardo (check out the name dropping!) the other day and he said one of the philosophies at Blizzard was to make a game that appeals to the hardcore and then make it accessible to everybody. Could this complex game be made more accessible? Or would it have to be fundamentally simplified? And is there a way to simplify it without compromising it?