When baseball meets Farmville, you get MLB Ballpark Empire. The simulation social network game is available on Facebook and Apple operating systems. It allows users to build their own organizations—based on real major league baseball teams—in every facet ranging from player development to concession prices and marketing.
The game is developed by Major League Baseball so there are no licensing limitations. While you'll have major league teams at your disposal from the beginning, it'll take some success or financial input to get real players.
The developer's purpose here was not to create the most complicated and intricate baseball simulation experience. MLB Ballpark Empire is designed to be a pick-up-and-play and addictive experience.
For those with a loose passion for baseball and a love for similar Facebook applications, it'll likely hit the mark.
Instead of pumping the game with real-life situations like suspensions, arbitration, trade deadlines and waiver wires, the game takes a more casual fan approach to team management. You're a stadium owner who has to build your entire organization (roster, stadium, staff, etc.).
You'll need to establish the proper facility to earn revenue to run your business. There is little-to-nothing to do in the way of in-game management. The players on your team pretty much determine the outcome of the game on their own. It is up to you to sign stars, hire the right manager and staff to monitor all that is important to you as an owner.
The game is free to play, but there are some elements that require actual financial input.
Playing the Game
When the game begins, you'll have fictional players and you'll be restricted to playing exhibition games.
As you experience more success and earn more money, you'll be able to replace the fake players with real MLB players. One draw back here is that some stars require you to pay real money to obtain them. Depending on your commitment level to the game, that may be a deal breaker for some.
Once you begin to add players with bigger financial demands, you must balance your expenses in a way that allows you to maintain the talent on your roster as well as maintain and upgrade your stadium.
The further you go in the game, the more challenging this balancing act becomes.
Tip 1: Don't neglect your staff (non-players). Employees in your organization such as concession managers and such may be expensive to hire, but they help you manage the vital areas in your tasks.
Tip 2: The best approach I've found is to create an imaginary bank for player salaries within your actual funds. Discipline yourself to not deplete the funds in that bank for any expansion cost. The bright flickering lights of the achievements in the game can be tempting, but if you lose stars because you can't afford to retain them, your team will start to lose. If that happens, the fans won't care how many hot dog stands you have.
For fans who aren't looking for something as deep as the franchise mode in MLB 13 the Show, the old MLB Front Office Manager simulation from 2K Sports, or the amazingly deep Out of the Park Baseball 13 simulation, this could be ideal.
Even if you have those console games and PC games and you have time on your hands away from home, MLB Ballpark Empire could help scratch your baseball itch until you can get back to a more hardcore experience.
Rating: 7 out of 10
While there is nothing groundbreaking here, the game does a good job of blending two passions—social networking games and baseball. With a simple to use interface, the right fan may find themselves spending hours selling concessions and signing players.
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