Quality Control – Wall Street Kid & Stock Market Simulators

So, in my most recent recap of GamePro, I decided to pick for my Quality Control for that issue (since they haven’t started including review scors yet), Wall Street Kid, a stock market simulation game for the NES. In the course of looking for the game, I found various articles about the game, including reviews at SomethingAwful, and by Seanbaby. The general consensus about the game is that it’s bad. Really, really bad. Mind-numbingly bad. So, after coming across these, and having second thoughts about my pick, I started thinking about Stock Market Simulator games, Business simulators, and the way those fields have gone.

When I was in middle school, and later in high school, in an attempt to teach us about finance, we, in the course of our classes, played Stock Market Simulator games. Now, these games were generally browser based – using a spreadsheet database to keep track of the stocks the players purchased, while harvesting real-world stock prices and performance  through the internet from Yahoo Finance. These provided a lot of realism to the simulations.  The main problem with the use of the simulation in class is they had us in the computer lab for an hour doing this, when, normally, even if you’re doing a lot of research into your stock choices, you only need that much time once you’re getting your portfolio togeather. Once you’ve got that togeather, you just need to check on the prices and maybe performance updates – though, at the time, there weren’t the kind of news aggrigators you’d have now, that could be used to collect all kinds of news stories about the companies you’d “invested” in to help you make an educated decision on your stock purchase. This often lead to a bit of a “day-trading” mentality, back before “day trading” was a big deal. 

I’m going into all of that because Wall Street Kid was a game that was made before internet connectivity was wide spread. Consequently, the game developers have to create a stock market, populate it with industries, and then try and come up with a way to have the stock prices move reasonably, and then try to put an interesting game around it. This is, in short, a difficult task. Thus, it’s not suprising that Wall Street Kid failed in pulling it off.

This is, ultimately, why I suspect the video game industry moved to the Tycoon game style for their business games, whether they were involved in railroads (Railroad Tycoon), or in the airline industry (Aerobiz), or in any of hundreds of other types of business that have gotten video games based around running them in the past 20 years. It’s easier to make the games interesting. To be honest, I am not aware of any other stock market simulation games of any type until the advent of the internet, at which point we got a fair number of browser based games, as well as the rise of more Fantasy Baseball, Football, Ultimate Fighting, whatever leagues, no longer limited to just the workplace, but massive leagues involving hundreds of people from around the world.

So, to get to a point for all this – the purpose of this column is to ask – is a game that is previewed or reviewed in Nintendo Power (or GamePro), worth the hype they put into it. In this case – no. The game doesn’t particularly represent the stock market fairly well, and you’d have more fun with a browser based simulator anyway (even with the economy being in the crapper). As iti s, business simulators like Railroad Tycoon, Aerobiz, or even Total Extreme Wrestling are better options. Give this game a pass.