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Free Enterprise (Windows)

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64
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
2.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Philip Mathis (7)
Written on  :  Jun 02, 2005

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Summary

Interesting Business Sim

The Good

1. The "micro business feel" of the game gives it an "I wonder if I could do this for real" quality. You start out with very limited funds and are required to keep tabs on your workers, machines, etc. You are much more concerned about making the mortgage payments than about crushing the competition. 2. The employee personalities. At first I disregarded the applicants' personalities and just hired the people willing to take the lowest pay. After a while, I started hiring the "better fit" even if it meant paying them more, and noticed the improvement in the output (and profits) of the business.

The Bad

1. There are no taxes. This is true of Capitalism as well, but any business anywhere in the world has to pay taxes, but not in Free Enterprise. This hurts some of the "reality" of the simulation. 2. Once you choose your city and building, you are stuck with them as long as you play that particular game, which can constrict growth considerably. 3. The bank loans you get are unrealistic. You can borrow, say, $250,000 for a period of 1 through 5 years, but the interest rate is higher for the shorter term; that is, if you borrow the money for 1 year, you're paying 12% interest, but extend the loan to 5 years, it's only 8% interest. I believe that is backwards from what the bank really does.

The Bottom Line

Free Enterprise is a business simulation that came out in 1996; since that's roughly when Capitalism was published, comparisons between the two games are inevitable. There are differences: while Trevor Chan's Capitalism has the player trying to grow your company into a corporate behemoth, Free Enterprise has a more "micro-business" orientation--while the minimum amount of funds you start in Capitalism is $5 million, Free Enterprise gives you a range of starting funds options: inheritance, loans, or venture capital, with those three categories broken down even further; the most you can start out with is $1 million, but it involves the trade-off of turning majority ownership over to the venture capitalists. While Capitalism allows you to be either a manufacturer or retailer (or real estate investor, or stock speculator, or even media owner if you have Capitalism 2), Free Enterprise is strictly manufacturing business. Also, Capitalism allows you to play the market, buying and selling your own and competitors' stocks. There is no stock market in Free Enterprise.

Play starts with you choosing in which U.S. City to establish your business. A generic "city scene" is called up, and you then choose which vacant building to rent, with a range of buildings of differing floorspace available. You then choose which product to make (the tutorial shows how best to decide), and buy the appropriate machine. You can decide to produce "parts goods", such as steel cases (used in making computers and other products). Parts goods are bought by other businesses in the city who are making finished goods. You can decide to make finished goods as well, which are sold "nationally". Profits and Losses depend on your ability to manage your finances and the ability of your workers.

One of the intriguing aspects of the game is the employees you hire. You put ads the the paper for particular jobs you need filled, and then check your in box to see if anyone has applied. The applications list the prospects' qualities and deficiencies, and gives a rating of how well the applicant "fits" the job you are hiring for. It makes a difference who you hire, as better qualified employees will have higher quality work.

While there's no "end" to the game, there are conditions of gameplay that depend on you reaching certain goals by a set amount of time. Also there are a few scenarios to play.