You start with a tropical, volcanic island — think: Hawaii — and your job is to grow your tourism business via attractions like hotels, luaus and fruit stands, bringing in more customers and earning more money so you can further expand your island tourism chain.
Also notable is that the game only uses Facebook’s in-house virtual currency, Credits. There’s no other payment system currently available. As we’ve previously reported that Facebook is planning a major rollout of Credits to third-party apps.
The game’s genre traces back to classic casual games like Roller Coaster Tycoon, and more recently, Zynga’s Roller Coaster Kingdom social game. In an interview yesterday, CrowdStar chairman Peter Relan explained that unlike some other park-style management simulations, Happy Island takes it easy on users. There’s minimal penalties for not coming back to the game — the tourists keep coming to your island and earning you money, even when you’re not providing them with constant new amusements. This dynamic is similar to its other games, Happy Aquarium and Happy Pets, where the fish and pets, respectively, might go hungry or dirty, but they don’t die or run off like what happens in some of the competing titles in those genres.
The idea is to make the game universally appealing, or “happy,” as the name suggest. As you progress, your island gets bigger and bigger, and you can expand to more islands. Relan says the company learned to enable this sort of expansion, after watching Happy Aquarium users create scores of fish tanks to take care of their fish farms.
CrowdStar recently promised to pump out original titles every month, pacing competitors — especially market leader Zynga. That developer followed up on Happy Aquarium and other aquarium games with FishVille in November, then followed up on Happy Pets (and preceding pet games, like Pet Society and SuperPoke Pets) with PetVille earlier this month.
Other innovations in Happy Island include a 2.5-dimensional interface, where you can see cartoon tourists walking to different parts of the island; this is a more complex view than what CrowdStar’s other games have offered. You can also do things like zoom out to see your whole island empire or zoom in to closely examine specific features.
The game comes with a lot of easy ways to earn coins, like harvesting simple objects off the landscape. However, any improvements to game features, like an airstrip, dock or hotel, cost either a considerable amount of coins, or a few Credits. There’s also no mention of island locals and how they might feel about the tourists.
Happy Island has been in beta testing for the last 10 days. It currently has nearly 100,000 daily active users and around 243,000 monthly active users; we expect to grow as CrowdStar begins promoting it on its game toolbar on Happy Aquarium and its other apps.