Digital Chocolate Attempts a Repeat Success With Hollywood City and Vegas City

Social developer Digital Chocolate has released a new iteration of its highly successful Facebook game Millionaire City this week, called Hollywood City. The new game takes players to Tinseltown as they enter into a business like no other: show business. [Update: Shortly after publishing this review, Digital Chocolate released Vegas City, yet another reskin of Millionaire City. The review below deals with Hollywood City, but most of the major mechanics in the two games are identical.]

With the success of Millionaire City — which was #9 on this month’s top 25 list with nearly 12 million monthly active users — it’s of no surprise that Digital Chocolate would attempt to repeat it. Those that have played Millionaire City can consider this a recap. Players have inherited the show business empire of their late grandfather, and it’s up to them to make it in the world of Hollywood. In order to do so, players construct various movie studios in order to produce a variety of different movies and shows.

This becomes the primary source of income for players, as they sign contracts that take anywhere from three minutes to three days and range from commercials to trilogies of documentaries, horror flicks, animation, and so on. Gated by level, the difference between the studios is marginal at best, and the primary difference is aesthetic appeal. The biggest difference is that a “Music Video” option might be unavailable for a western-oriented studio until a certain level, but available immediately in a horror studio.

As for other money-earning ventures, players can also buy various studio support structures. These work like decorations do in Millionaire City, providing a percentage bonus to all income-generating structures within a certain number of grid spaces. Additionally, there are other money making structures that generate revenue passively, such as movie theaters, comedy clubs, and so on.

The only other type of structure worth mentioning are “Landmarks” which are special buildings like the “Walk of Fame” that take an exorbitant amount of time to construct (the first one takes two weeks alone) but increases the income of all buildings in one’s city.

This is where social play begins to show up, as players can ask friends for help in constructing any building. Doing so generates a wall posting, and friends that help out will reduce the build time of whatever building has been posted about (there is also an option to build it instantly using a large chunk of cash). Social play doesn’t stop here either.

Beyond leaderboards, players are able to “invest” in one another. It works exactly as it sounds, as users can spend a chunk of change on a friend, and should their virtual Hollywood reach a certain value by a specified deadline, the investor will receive a significant payback (invest $1000 and earn $100,000). There is also the ability to visit one another’s virtual spaces and become “Business Partners.” Unfortunately, even upon adding one, the result is unclear, but users can “promote” a friend’s studios for extra experience and coin (like fertilizing crops).

There are also various quests for some extra experience and money. This is where the only real difference from Millionaire City (besides the aesthetic) comes into play, as there is the occasional quest involving the non-player witch, Ruth Less. Occasionally, she will try to ruin the user’s reputation with the typical Hollywood slander, leaked video, or whatever else is at her disposal. She doesn’t seem to ever win, but players do get an option on how to handle it resulting in either bonus money or experience. Style-wise, this isn’t a bad touch.

As a fairly direct copy of Millionaire City, Hollywood City doesn’t win any Oscars in the creativity and design department, but it’s hardly a bad idea from a business perspective.

Re-releasing the same concept with a different style hearkens back to Zynga’s early strategy with its role-playing “Wars” games, while Playdom is reusing elements in its successive city-building games like Social City and City of Wonder (although with more changes in each iteration) and smaller studios like Broken Bulb have successfully pursued the same strategy. With the new premise, it is very likely that Digital Chocolate will hook a whole new set of players that just didn’t find real estate concept all that appealing.