Games about the business of selling weed are nothing new, but ones that take it seriously are as rare as Malawi Gold. Weedcraft Inc, created by Vile Monarch and published by cool kids Devolver Digital, wants to change that, building a management sim about growing and selling marijuana that rivals any of the big tycoon titles for depth and detail. Marijuana might not be inherently addictive, but I don't think the same can be said for Weedcraft Inc.
One minute I was exchanging small talk with Scott Alexander, Weedcraft Inc's narrative designer; the next I was speeding ahead, tweaking my soil so that I could grow a new strain to increase my customer base. Playing as the business-brained brother of a weed dealer, you make choices about everything including lighting, soil, types of marijuana, staffing (your sellers, growers who can tend the plants, etc.), pricing, how to deal with the competition, the law, and even politicians. While I've never dabbled in the drug retail business, I've played a lot of tycoon games, and the menus and options in the early levels balanced control and simplicity with the best of them. Fun fact: a big-deal developer of simulation titles is on board as a consultant, but Alexander couldn't tell me who it was because they didn't want their name tied to a marijuana game.
That kind of conservative attitude is something you get to play with in Weedcraft Inc, ironically. The complicated legalities around marijuana - where it's legal, where it definitely isn't, and who profits off it either way - are things Weedcraft Inc uses to add a moral and psychological element to basic economics. Sure, you could divert some of your profits into political lobbying to legalize your product, but that's going to increase competition in the marketplace. Instead, why not build a relationship with the local cop whose wife suffered from a terminal illness - potentially making him more tolerant of the medical marijuana side of your enterprise - and reduce the scrutiny you're under?
Machiavellian Mary Jane
Chatting to anyone, be it that cop, your competition, political figures, and so forth, will reveal personal information that you can use to your advantage. I only got to dip my toes into this part of the game, but it was one of the more fascinating elements for me. I mean sure, who doesn't love soil composition - but psychological warfare offers a much more satisfying path to business success. These RPGs-lite features help Weedcraft Inc feel like more than just a click farm, breaking you out of the impulsive cycle of growing, harvesting, and growing some more by forcing you to think outside the fertilizer box.
Even if I hadn't got to try Weedcraft Inc for myself, the fact that Devolver is involved is a stamp of quality that marks it out as more than just a PC version of Wiz Khalifa's Weed Farm. This is the publishing house that seeks out often edgy, always cool experiences like Hotline Miami, The Talos Principle, Minit, and more, managing to do it all with a sense of humor embodied by a fictional CFO called Fork Parker. This is the first game the company has ever commissioned, rather than having someone pitch it to them and adding it to its label, so there's going to be lots of attention to detail behind the scenes. There's no exact release date yet, but whenever it is, I plan to put some serious time into becoming the best drug kingpin the world has ever seen. Mother will be horrified.
Weedcraft Inc will be released for PC in 2019. If you're looking for another sim in the meantime, albeit one with less controversial drugs, try Two Point Hospital.