Prison Tycoon

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For the series, see Prison Tycoon (series).
Prison Tycoon
Developer(s) Virtual Playground
Publisher(s) ValuSoft
Platform(s) PC
Release date(s)
  • NA July 21, 2005
Genre(s) Business simulation game
Mode(s) Single player

Prison Tycoon is a business simulation computer game developed by Virtual Playground and published by ValuSoft in July 2005 that puts the user in charge of a prison. Objectives are to keep the prison running, keep the staff happy, keep the prisoners in line, all while trying to make money.

Users are allowed to choose between a New England prison, a modern U.S. Southwestern-style prison, and a West Coast-style prison modelled after San Quentin.

A sequel, Prison Tycoon 2: Maximum Security, was released on September 8, 2006, followed by Prison Tycoon 3: Lockdown in 2007 and Prison Tycoon 4: Supermax in 2008, then Prison Tycoon: Alcatraz in late 2010.

Also, THQ Wireless released a version of Prison Tycoon for the iPhone in May 2009.[1]


Prison Tycoon has generally received poor grades from critics. X-Play's Time Stevens gave the game only one star out of five, concluding his review by writing that "Prisons aren't supposed to be fun, so maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that a game about prisons isn't either".[2] GameZone gives the game a score of 5/10, praising the idea and concept but complaining about clunky graphics, dysfunctional camera angles and lack of instructions.[3]

Some of common complaints of the game include bad camera angles, lackluster graphics, choppy or slow framerates, annoying music and sound, and limited help for players; while most players agreed the concept was neat.[4]


The premise of the game is to create a functional prison complete with walls, guard towers, housing wings, dining, workout and medical facilities. The objective of the game is ultimately to turn your low security incarceration facility into a profitable maximum security prison. Funding is collected by the player through state funding, charitable donations and inmate labor depending on a myriad factors, such as employee satisfaction and inmate happiness and rehabilitation. You have the option to start with a completely blank slate in a free-play mode or with the basic layout of an existing prison with several problems that need to be addressed in the challenge mode.[5]

The challenges range from rehabilitating a certain number of inmates, reducing the number of riots and fights within the prison or simply to reaching a certain level of security. To create a prison the player places buildings or walls along a grid system by selecting which building they would like and placing it somewhere within the boundaries of the map. There are over 100 different buildings that can be constructed. Within certain buildings the player can build different rooms from over 100 to choose from, such as rooms with multiple beds within one cell or solitary confinement cells.[6] Buildings come with their appropriate staffing, for example guard towers come with guards already positioned in the tower and medical facilities come with medical staffing.

Once a player has constructed sufficient housing and basic amenities, prisoners begin arriving on buses depending on the capacity of the prison. Prisoners continue to arrive as long as there is sufficient capacity to hold them and depart as they complete their sentences. As the number of inmates increases the prison upgrades to a higher security level, beginning at low security until it becomes a maximum security prison. With higher levels of security the player has access to more advanced facilities and upgraded walls and guard towers.

Players are able to click on both inmates and staff to get a basic description of their levels of satisfaction, fatigue, productivity, as well as misconduct for prisoners. Players are also able to assign prisoners to cells, jobs and activities by clicking on one of these things with the prisoner selected. Also, players can drag and drop guards to areas of high misconduct or to break up riots which occur within the prison if prisoners become too dissatisfied.


Rioting prisoners being subdued by the guards.

The game designers created 96 different looking inmates capable of over 100 different animations to allow for a varied prison population. Inmates have various meters above their heads which the player can monitor by clicking on the prisoners. They have levels of satisfaction, fatigue, productivity and misconduct. If inmates do not have activities, such as working out, playing basketball or performing work they will become dissatisfied and their misconduct meter will increase. Having high misconduct will result in decreased productivity and an increase in fights and riots breaking out within the prison.

Ultimately, it is important to monitor inmate morale and keep it high to increase profits, as high inmate morale and sufficient rooming will result in more inmates arriving. Also, the player has the ability to suggest inmates to the parole board, for possible early dismissal. The approval or rejection of a prisoner is based upon the number of fights he has been in, the number of gangs he is affiliated with, the number of rehabilitation projects he has completed as well as his misconduct rating.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "iPhone App". Apple. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  2. ^ "Prison Tycoon". Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  3. ^ "Prison Tycoon Review". GameZone. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  4. ^ "Prison Tycoon Player Reviews". Gamespot. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  5. ^ "Prison Tycoon Features". ValuSoft. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  6. ^ "Prison Tycoon Features". ValuSoft. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 

External links[edit]