Spoiler alert! If you’re going to get sucked in by free games that charge you out the wazoo once you start to play, there are better games than We City or City Story. But if you really want to piss away your real money to buy virtual money and you’re already playing the better ones, then I would go with We City.
It’s a funny thing about games. There was a time when you bought a game and if there was any additional expense it was buying replacement pieces. And that was only if you didn’t have a cheap dad who thought a penny was just as good as the lost shoe in Monopoly.
No, that wasn’t my Dad—although both he and my grand dad could pinch pennies so tightly you could fit a roll of them in a wallet and it would remain perfectly flat. I was the dad with the shoe penny. But in my defense Carol and I had just sprung a hundred bucks on a Millennium Falcon with the Han Solo action figure to replace the Millennium Falcon with Han Solo action figure that, it turned out, wouldn’t fly if you launched it from the rear window of a moving car.
The day arrived when profit from one time sales was no longer enough. Game companies had to release spin-offs and sequels. Texas Oil Monopoly and Halo 2, 3, 4 ad infinitum. Then the economy went south and game companies decided they needed to rake in more money than ever before. The new strategy? Give a game away for free and charge an arm and a leg to get the cool features once they’re hooked.
It’s not enough to just hook players on the virtual cash mainline in one game, however. You have to get them hooked into as many games as possible. More importantly, you have to streamline the money flow. If players discover they can succeed in, say, We Rule without buying virtual cash then create a new game, We Farm, that eliminates the items that rack up points for players or force players to buy them with virtual cash. And how would players earn that virtual cash? With their credit cards, of course.
So where do you come up with the ideas for new games? By pulling a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates/Steve Jobs/Bill Gates. Rip off someone else’s game and then, when they rip off your rip off, rip off their rip off of your rip off.
It’s hard to untangle the genesis of these games but it seems to go like this. Facebook created Farmville, which was so popular, ngmoco:) came up with We Rule for the iPhone and iPad. We Rule was Farmville in the middle ages, so technically it was a different game.
LavaTown, wanting to cash in on the gravy train, didn’t even bother to disguise their inspiration. They released Farm Story. Not to be outdone, ngmoco:) countered with a release of We Farm. LavaTown, deciding to strike back, went for throat with an outright copy of We Rule, but they updated it to the 20th century. The new game? City Story.
You’d think the game of tit-for-tat would be over by this point. ngmoco:) had not one, but two games syphoning players’ credit cards into virtual cash. But, no, they released a third game in the “We” series called We City.
This provides me with an opportunity to compare two different games that, for the most part, seem to be the exact same game. So what’s the difference? I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you right now. We City has little people who crawl around the landscape. City Story lets you take virtual snapshots and send them to other players.
That’s pretty much it. Oh, wait. The cash you have to buy in City Story is called city cash, and in We City it’s called zap. You still have to buy both with real dollars.
Until yesterday I would have said We City has a colosseum and City Story has an Eiffel Tower. But Tuesday We City added the Eiffel Tower. So we’re back to pictures and people and the name of the cash you have to buy.1 Here’s the real rub. You can’t earn the game cash to purchase either Eiffel Tower, you have to buy city cash or zap.
This is City Story’s Eiffel Tower.
This is We City’s Eiffel Tower.
Both require a charge against your credit card.
One thing in City Story’s favor is that the name actually makes sense grammatically. After releasing We Rule and We Farm ngmoco:) decided to release We City. I’m sorry, but “city” isn’t a verb. We can rule, we can farm, but we can’t “city.”
You could argue We City is the full name of a city, like New York City, but then we’d need a We State wouldn’t we? I’d carry this riff further, but I actually flogged it to death Monday in my blog <a We Rule: The Hidden Grimoire.
So let’s look at the two games to see how they operate.
You begin with an small piece of real estate. We City has a small city hall and some roads, City Story has some houses and roads. You buy a factory and use it to manufacture goods to earn game cash to buy more factories, houses and buildings. As you earn more game cash you buy more factories, houses and buildings. In the process you earn more experience points and advance to higher levels of the game. As you reach higher levels, you to can expand your real estate.
A city story city. Mail the picture to your game friends.
The We City version.
You also develop a social network of friends with their own cities. And here’s where I admit I exaggerated earlier. The real differences in the game appear as you gain experience and build your network of friends.
City Story’s social network allows players to exchange messages and share photos of their cities as they grow. The game also adds an additional “happiness” factor. Your experience points are determined by your population’s overall happiness, which is determined by how well your purchases serve their needs. If you blow all your money on gas stations, your population won’t be happy. Of course, you can’t see the population so you have to judge their happiness by little messages in the game menu.
The City Story profile center tells you what you need to do to keep your population happy.
You can send messages and photos to friends as well as little gifts. My biggest gripe, however, is that for most of the game, however, you can’t expand your real estate without ponying up your credit card for city cash. In fact, a number of the coolest decorations, such as football fields and the Eiffel Tower, require a purchase of city cash.
We City stays with the tried and true method of its predecessors. You don’t gift anyone. Players buy from each other’s buildings, and they don’t have to buy zap to expand their real estate. They can earn game cash for that. The biggest difference, however, is that you can actually see the people in your city. They wander around, like busy little beavers—lawyers, fry cooks, hairdressers and gladiators.
Gladiators? That’s right. The colosseum introduces a sword carrying Roman gladiator. You might say the game jumped the shark before it was two weeks old.
How many gladiators do you see in your city?
Recommending which of the two games to download reminds me of the old joke, “If you see two lawyers drowning and you can only save one of them, would you take a nap or go to a movie?” If you want to play a social networking game, don’t play either. We Rule still seems like the best of the lot. The network is larger and you can advance further before blowing your bank account.
It’s tempting to think you can advance more quickly in We City by getting in on the ground floor. But that boat’s sailed. The top players have already earned a couple of million experience points and with these games their points will triple before you earn that couple million yourself.
Jenny Manytoes rates We City and City Story
Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to both games so she can dream about We Trap in which cats nail virtual mice and birds and have to buy virtual catnip. After playing both, I prefer We City because of all the cute little guys wandering around and because ngmoco:) still hasn’t figured out how to strong arm the real cash out of players as efficiently as LavaTown.