Doctors Ordered: Big Pharma’s Marketing Expansion

Over and above its management and strategy groundings, Big Pharma [official site] shines a light on the billion dollar, often unscrupulous, pharmaceutical industry. While Alec enjoyed his hands-on time with Twice Circled’s medicine manufacturing sim last year, he noted it didn’t “go for pharmaceutical industry’s jugular”. Its first expansion – Marketing and Malpractice – takes a distinguished step towards doing exactly that by introducing dodgy tactics and the ability to manually set medicine prices.

Whereas the base game has you developing the composition, potency and effectiveness of your self-manufactured medicine in order to turn profit – not to mention figuring out ways to cram more production lines into your ever-mobbed warehouse floors – Big Pharma’s Marketing and Malpractice expansion shifts your focus squarely onto the consumer end. Naturally, this is where the fun/dangerously illegal activities begin.

Maybe you’ll shower doctors with free gifts in order to secure their business? Or perhaps you’ll tamper with the results of clinical trials to make your drugs appear more effective than they actually are? Hell, you might even run phony disease awareness campaigns and convince the masses that a) they’re terribly sick and b) you’ve got just the drug to cure them – when it comes to making money there’s little bounds to depravity, it seems.

What’s more, Marketing and Malpractice lets you set the price of your wares manually for the first time. This means it’s now possible to undercut competitors; force them out of business; and gain monopoly of the market, allowing you to charge extortionate prices for life-saving cures – the latter of which skates awfully close to real life. Which is of course the point: Big Pharma is a tongue-in-cheek satirical swipe at a real life industry that doesn’t always behave itself. This is echoed in the expansion’s equally tongue-in-cheek trailer:

New technical tinkerings also befall the expansion, the full list of which can be found here.

Big Pharma: Marketing and Malpractice is out now for Windows, Mac and Linux. Grab it for £4.79/5,99€/$5.99 from Positech, Steam, GOG, or the Humble Store.


  1. Deathmaster says:

    I’m no tycoon game expert, but Big Pharma was a heavy disappointment for me. At first it seems to have a lot of depth, just jumping into a skirmish without doing the tutorial is pretty much impossible.

    But then you do the tutorial, or in this case a glorified way of reading the manual, and you quickly know everything there is to know. Then the game falls flat so fast, offers little challenge and becomes boringly repetitive before even reaching the 10 hour mark.

    I’ll pass on this and any future dlc at least.

    • Aninhumer says:

      Also the factory layout aspect feels a lot more like an arbitrary hindrance than it does an interesting optimisation puzzle.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I never even got that far. I got this game to support the dev and those who go for this kind of design and theme. But I preferred the design when it was more about mixing and unique results. Now it’s just a substance concentration balance game. IE, it’s addition and subtraction and little more.

      The original pre-alpha had discoverable (random, but only on worldgen) effects, and different multiplications or mixtures having unique effects, such as x2 power, additional speed etc. Where as this system is +1 or -2 to the overall result.

      Seems more a base for a game than the game it’s self.

  2. Michael Anson says:

    I hate to say this, but with the exception of the bit on the bottom about the expansion being out now, pretty much this exact article was posted on March 31st. Including the trailer.

  3. KDR_11k says:

    Setting prices should have been in the base game, it’s not much of a business sim without having to worry about moving your inventory. The base game just gave you money for every produced item according to that item’s daily value, it could never fail to sell. Overall the base game just seems to be designed around the factory floor first (to scratch the production and optimization itch like Factorio does) with everything before and after the factory stage being just an afterthought.

    • Aninhumer says:

      Just going to note that it was possible to saturate the market, after which your product wouldn’t sell any more (I assume, I never actually tried.)

      But yeah, not being able to set prices does seem incredibly limiting.

      • KDR_11k says:

        I know there’s a saturation system that reduces the unit price but making something unsellable?

        • Darloth says:

          It was very possible to sell something for less than you actually spent making it.

      • BrickedKeyboard says:

        As I understand it, you could never make a product that wouldn’t sell. The price would drop, but you could sell sugar pill waste products from your various assembly lines. In fact, in early versions of the released game, this was the only way to get rid of unwanted products – you’d sell something that had no benefit, only side effects, and someone would buy it. The price would drop – it would start low and as it’s nonexistant medicinal value became known, it would drop even farther – but some eats every pill your factory makes, even the toxic waste leavings from a production process.

  4. Heliocentric says:

    I enjoy the Theme Hospital sans people /w conveyor belts thing.

    I have no interest in micro managing the business side.

    The key flaw in Big Pharma is the same one 1990’s RTS had, rote repetition of the early game.

    Once you have a money spinner you can either clear debts, or take on debts and mass produce or tech rush towards a goal. But all these choices boil down to ‘make more money’. Events and competition hardly matter if you have flooded your buildings with belts, as you progress choices evaporate, sure an event might disparage a drug you are making it a bad choice.

    The key problem with Big Pharma is that symptoms are either good or bad, there’s no harmonics, no side effects that are subjectively good, no place for drowsiness, no place for muscle relaxants, or raised blood pressure.

    Its kinda silly.

  5. Vintageryan says:

    I bought this game on release day on the back of a PC Gamer preview that heavily suggested it was a deep tycoon game, I was personally really disappointed after playing for a few hours what appeared to me to be a puzzle game.

    This dlc brings the game nearer to what I thought I was buying in the first place. Going to hold off on it for now until I learn how much it actually changes the game.

  6. ZombieFX says:

    Just buy factorio…

    Or spacechem, if ur into puzzles. Gg