MetroGames Competes Against Bigger Rivals with Facebook City Building Game Towner

With a recently-announced $5 million from Playdom, Argentina-based MetroGames is  a healthy-looking smaller developer. And, despite a horde of other city-building games, including Playdom’s booming Social City, it has a strong city builder of its own, Towner.

This SimCity’esque application appeared at #12 on our most recent top DAU gainers list. It currently has around 190,000 daily active users, while its monthly active users currently tallies in at around 1.1 million. Growth seems to have taken off in late February — maybe it began spending some of its new funds on ads, at that point? In any case, here’s a closer look at the game.

It starts out about the same as any other city-builder. Users are presented with a grid of green space and are told to place House A into Spot B. Okay, fairly simple. As expected, part of the core play is to manage your income (earned passively via “rent” from structures) and create an aesthetically pleasing cityscape.

This is hardly ground-breaking, so Towners does add a few new elements to the game. This is where MetroGames takes a more farming-style game approach than some of its rivals. Players must periodically repair buildings every so often, as well as inaugurate them when their initial construction is complete. If you do not, rent is lost and the buildings “die” (are condemned).

This is an interesting concept, to say the least, but it does beg the question as to how well this will work outside farming applications. Granted, in the grand scheme of things, a digital house is no different than a digital crop. But they are certainly more expensive, which leads to a big repair cost should you, say, leave town for a week.

Perhaps it is mere doom-saying, but if it costs a ton of money to rebuild a city that looks like something out of The Road Warrior, many users may just as soon leave it and move on to a new game. At least with other city builders, the city can live without you.

Regardless, one element to Towners that is better than the competition is the prospect of resource management. Playdom’s Social City does well with players managing citizen happiness, money, and population, but that merely comes down to constructing leisure buildings, factories, and houses respectively.

While Social City resource management is very general, but it would seem the residents of Towners know a little bit more about what they want. Making them happy requires more than just random entertainment facilities and trees. Happiness is actually broken up into six categories: jobs, entertainment, security, fire stations, health, and education. In order for the population to be 100% happy, all six need to be at 100%, and the larger your city gets, the more of these categories’ corresponding structures (all of which are obvious; schools equals more education points, etc.) are needed.

Another interesting element to this app is that it actually makes use of a virtual currency called Towner Cash, as well as Facebook Credits. The Cash is used for expanding your city limits and a few decorations. In regards to the former, however, you can still expand for free based on the number of neighbors you have (friends that play too), but if you can’t get anyone to play with you, you will either need to spend some money, or slowly earn one Towner Cash at a time for every level up.

In regards to the decorations, these are obviously not required, so the need for Towner Cash is less prevalent. Not to be confused with decorations like trees – dubbed “Green Space” – this decorum consists of famous landmarks such as the Arc’De Triunf, a crashed UFO, or the Statue of Liberty. Curiously, some of these can also be purchased through Facebook Credits as well. Logically, this seems a bit odd, but perhaps it is a means to simply entice users that may have Credits lying about, to spend them, rather than buying a new virtual currency.

Another surprise to Towners, is that it doesn’t seem like the player can actually place their own roads. Maybe because the game is “Towners” – town, not city – this is justified, but the only road is one that circles the entire building space. The jury is still out on whether this is a good or bad design. It does alleviate some of the tediousness of placing and layout roads one grid space at a time, but being able to do so gives the player’s virtual space a little bit more uniqueness, and helps to make a city or town feel more complete.

Overall, Towners takes some interesting paths in constructing its city-builder. While it incorporates all of the standards, it does enough differently to stand out. That said, it’s not clear whether or not some of the features will have the effect the developer is hoping for. But so far, so good.