A long-time developer on MySpace, BitRhymes began building games on Facebook starting in 2010. Now it’s getting some results, in the form of Salon Street. Recently appearing in our fastest-growing Facebook games list (based on monthly active users), the game has been steadily growing in the MAU department. Currently hosting over 1.3 million MAU, the daily active users have been much more sporadic, totaling, currently, approximately 112,000.
A basic business-sim, Salon Street doesn’t do anything drastic to differentiate itself. Peppering in a few new features, it does come with a few extra elements, like customized salon services. Where it does falter, however, is in the initial hook, granting users too little money and too expensive of items to buy.
As the name of the game suggests, players are given their very own virtual salon, with the whole objective being that of every other social business-sim on Facebook: Level up, make it pretty, and make it a success. The basic rules of the game stem from the variety of similar games already on the market.
Players are given a “service chair” (with more available for purchase with higher levels) in which to perform various salon services for incoming patrons. There’s actually a wide variety of services ranging from a simple haircut, to piercing, to crazy manicure mineral bath deals. Regardless, each service must have supplies in order to be performed, and as such, the game takes a more Market Street approach.
Supplies are ordered via a catalog and will take varying amounts of time to be delivered. Depending on the value of the service they are used for, they will take longer to arrive, and will, unfortunately, expire should the player not use them to stock a service chair. Yes, the stock is used the stock the chairs themselves. It’s more or less the same as stocking drinks or food products on a counter in Café World — one set of supplies per chair.
Once stocked, customers seeking specific services will wander in, and start generating a small stream of revenue. As they are taken care of, the player will earn fame — which causes more customers to arrive — and should they have to wait too long, or their desired service is unavailable, fame will decline. Also, the amount they pay is not a set number. It is, in fact, augmented by the “Luxury” level of one’s virtual space, which is increased by placing décor.
Moving into slightly newer territory: Depending on the player’s level, they will receive various VIP customers. Consisting of both friends and random non-player characters, these customers will pay significantly more for services, which consists of everything from hair coloring to nails. In both cases, players have to pick out the style they are asking for, but it appears that anything can be chosen and they will be happy. Moreover, these customers are treated via a VIP chair that never needs to be restocked. However, the number of VIP customers the player receives is finite and recharges over long periods of time.
As another gating mechanism, players have a rack of towels that is used to service all customers. These, however, cannot be restocked like normal supplies. Lasting several hours, they can only be refilled by friends who visit one’s virtual space, or every eight hours by an NPC.
Beyond this, other social mechanics stem from the many similar games that came before Salon Street. Like in games such as Hotel City, all employees within the space begin as temporary workers. These workers take a bit of the player’s revenue, but can be replaced by friends, who provide free labor. Other social mechanics are more standard. This consists of leaderboards, gifting, and even helping one another upgrade service chairs by sending parts as gifts. As a side note, upgraded chairs unlock new services.
That’s really the biggest complaint with Salon Street. Everything feels so undifferentiated. Granted, the game has mixed many different mechanics into it, but they’ve all been done before. They’re all just “safe.” Salon Street needs an identity of its own, be it a more unique core mechanic or even just a truly creative style to it (and this doesn’t refer to just static visuals, but rather a flair such as that found in Nightclub City).
Sadly, the static visuals fall short as well. This isn’t so much the art style, as much as it is how much the player can do with the space early on. All of the decorative items in the game are rather high in price, and the amount of starting money is very low, comparatively. Furthermore, the initial services that players can perform in that first sitting don’t exactly make much of a pay day.
In our first sitting, it was only possible to purchase one in-game currency decorative item, one virtual currency item, and some wallpaper (and not even enough to paint the whole wall). This is often the most enjoyable element to business-sim games like this, and the player isn’t given enough resources to truly get into it, thus the hook of the game is much weaker. To draw comparison, the amount in which new users could initially decorate their virtual space in Casino City is fantastic.
On the upside, there is at least one new, interesting, element to the game. In addition to ordering basic supplies, users can order “personalized” nail art which is not only creative, but can be shared with friends, as supplies, for free. This particular feature is something that could be significantly expanded upon, and become a much more interesting hook to the game should users be able to customize more things (e.g. hairstyles and tattoos). While on the topic of potential, and as a side note, the title Salon “Street” actually suggested that players might be able to host a chain of salon businesses; which would have also been interesting.
Nevertheless, the game is marked as a beta version (though most games never seem to leave it), and is subject to change and improvement. Overall, Salon Street is not a bad game, but even though it rearranges various mechanics from other past games, it just doesn’t feel terribly unique. Thankfully, the game does at least change a few things and is trying to combine older mechanics to create something newer feeling. In that, there is potential, but the biggest change needed for this and all other future games of this ilk, is either a core play or style element that truly makes it stand out.