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Game Dev Story leads Kairosoft's irresistible sim-lite games onto Steam

An office working away in Game Dev Story.
(Image credit: Kairosoft)
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Kairosoft is a Tokyo-based developer of sim games that are so distinct in style they're almost their own genre: and it's hard to articulate just why they work so well. Its most famous title is Game Dev Story, which believe it or not first appeared in 1997 on Windows, before becoming a global smash 13 years later when it was ported to mobile devices.

In Game Dev Story you manage a development studio: you hire staff, allocate resources, mix-and-match genres, and try to make a hit. It's a simple game in its elements—Kairosoft games at times could almost be called idle games—yet utterly draws you in with its witty script, unpredictability, and charming pixel art. You get quite invested in your little people, their work, and how best to make them happy and productive: because that increases your chances of a hit!

Game Dev Story is about as streamlined as a sim can get, and perhaps because of this its loop is quick, rewarding, and repeatable. Until the endgame, at least, when you basically have a mega studio that can't stop churning out Elden Rings.

That basically stands for all of them. Let's make no bones about it: Kairosoft makes the same game over and over. It knows that the formula is a winner, and Game Dev Story was the template for many other sim games about various things: as we'll all find out, when five of them hit Steam later this month. Five of Kairosoft's games have appeared in the store (opens in new tab), all with an unspecified March release date: Game Dev Story, Hot Springs Story, Station Manager, Dungeon Village, and Dream House Days DX.

Play one, and you'll more-or-less have played them all. But you will play that one for a lot longer than you might expect: these games, in their own small way, are irresistible.

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."