Music festivals have been absent from our lives for the past couple of years. The joys of muddy fields, blocked up toilets, crowds and crowds of people, and watching some sort of music act somewhere in the distance obscured by a load of flags have all been scuppered by the pandemic.
For anyone suffering from withdrawal, there’s Festival Tycoon courtesy of solo Austrian developer Driehaus, currently in early access on Steam. It’s a cute little title that puts you backstage managing your own music festival, thankfully without your wellies getting sucked into a muddy hole.
It’s a wonder really that more sim games haven’t tapped into the festival scene. Selling tickets; managing amenities; booking bands and sponsors; pleasing thirsty guests and demanding artists – this is all great fodder for a strategy game.
And Festival Tycoon has all of these things, delivered in a clean and simplistic aesthetic. First you’ll need to name your company and choose a logo, before starting your first festival proper in the surprisingly sunny scenery of Wales. A tutorial takes you through slapping down your key buildings: an entrance, a stage, a tent area, food and drinks stalls. Then it’s on to booking sponsors, creating your lineup and setting the ticket prices.
In some ways it’s more puzzle game than strategy. With limited space, immovable scenery, and budget constraints, you’ll need to choose which amenities are most needed to please guests, bands and sponsors alike. More sponsors means more cash to spend, but you’ll need space for ugly billboards to keep them pleased.
There’s room for creativity though, both in the types of activity stands and food stalls, and in the music acts you sign. You can switch between the likes of rock, hip-hop and EDM, but grouping genres together will net a higher score. And it all softly lampoons the music industry with its weird, randomly generated band names. Perhaps metal act Gullible Human Baby Importance will headline the festival, or hip-hop group Awkward Computer will make an appearance.
Once your layout is complete, your bands are ready to go, and your early bird tickets are sold, it’s time to open the gates and let the punters in. But it’s here the game falters. Going live means locking your festival in place; all that’s left is to order around your mechanics to fix broken amenities, use security to break up fights, and ensure your janitors are regularly sweeping up after those nasty crowds leaving plastic cups lying around.
There’s just not enough to do at this point. With no way to fix any errors in the planning stages, you have to live with your mistakes. Maybe you didn’t build enough toilets, or you forgot the medical tent, or missed off a sponsored billboard. Tough.
What’s more, it’s oddly silent for a music game. The planning stage is accompanied only by a soft breeze and even once open, the festival is only loud once there’s (original, jokey) music playing from the bands. It makes you want to book more acts next time, budget permitting of course. For that there’s sandbox mode, which lets you live your fantasy without restriction and get really playful.
The game is set to be in early access for some time, so there’s plenty of space for improvements. At the moment this festival is a quaint little day trip rather than a week-long bender, but the lineup does have potential.