Marketland is a Facebook game from Gamegos. It’s been available since August of this year and has been steadily picking up traction since — it’s also currently showing up in the “Trending” section of Facebook’s App Center.
Marketland is a simulation game in which the player runs a grocery store, builds up relationships with customers and gradually expands to create the biggest shop possible. Its core mechanics initially appear rather conventional — build structure to sell specific item; order stock for said structure and optionally speed up the real-time stock process with an in-game currency; profit — but the game carries a number of additional mechanics and a degree of player-friendliness that makes it a very appealing title overall.
Perhaps one of the boldest statements the game makes is its lack of an energy system. Players may continue playing Marketland for as long as they wish in a single session without having their enjoyment throttled by a paywall. This is not to say that the game does not monetize effectively — on the contrary, the game comes up with some interesting new approaches to encouraging the player to part with their cash — but rather it makes a conscious effort to “hook” the player with simple to understand, habit-forming mechanics, and then doesn’t deny them the gratification of being able to indulge in this enjoyment for as long as they wish.
Rather than relying on energy, then, Marketland makes use of a number of additional “currencies” for part of its monetization. Besides the usual soft and hard currencies, used for purchasing items in the store, three types of “card” are available and earned at a slow rate through normal play. Shopper cards may be used on individual customers walking into the store to give them a bigger “budget” to spend in the shop, or alternatively, once the player has reached level 10, to launch advertising campaigns and temporarily boost income for a period of real time; delivery cards may be used to speed up the time-consuming order process and immediately restock an empty shelf; product cards may be used to bypass the delivery process and immediately restock a shelf, or alternatively insure a delivery against damage in transit. These cards may be purchased using hard currency at any time but are also earned through play at such a rate that free players will not get frustrated.
In other words, those who pay up will be able to expand quicker and consequently earn more money, but free players are also able to have a satisfying experience without feeling like they are being encouraged to spend at every opportunity — perhaps somewhat ironic for a game about mindless consumerism.
Marketland is a good game that respects its players, then, but it’s lacking in a few key areas, most notably social features. The usual neighbor-visiting, “helping” and gift exchange features are present and correct, for example, but that’s about it. It would perhaps be nice to see the ability to trade between players, or even to see the customers coming into the store representing members of the player’s friends list. Since clicking on a customer already allows the player to invite their friends or send gifts to their neighbors, it seems like it would be a relatively small step to implement a feature where the game calls the virtual customers by name rather than the generic “student,” “daily shopper” and the like it has now. From there, this could serve as a means of the player promoting the game to their friends.
Despite its lack of social features, Marketland is still worth a look, as it’s a fun, simple game that avoids a lot of the social game conventions that some players find frustrating — nag screens, friend gates, paywalls — and instead focuses on simply providing an experience that is enjoyable. There’s a valid argument that by doing this, Gamegos may be depriving themselves of some income, but in the long term, it’s also entirely possible that a lot of players will come to regard the game more fondly — and thus be more willing to voluntarily open their wallets — as a result of this “respect” which is being shown to them.
A fun, simple and enjoyable game with a laudable level of respect for its players.