Big Pharma DLC: Marketing and Malpractice

You may remember Big Pharma from my review last year - it's a factory sim game that attempts to model the prescription drug industry. This week, Positech and Twice Circled released the first chunk of paid DLC for the game, titled "Marketing and Malpractice." In this article, I'll walk you through the changes, and help you decide if this DLC is right for you!

Big Pharma had a fairly simplistic economic model of supply and demand. If you made a pill, it sold at a fixed price, and that was that. Your ingredient prices might change if you're importing a lot of a given ingredient, or if your competitors are buying up stock and driving up demand. However, you could remain confident that your profits on a given drug were unlikely to change THAT much over the course of the game.

The Marketing and Malpractice DLC makes its biggest changes to this part of the simulation. Demand is no longer infinite - there is a somewhat dynamic number of each type of cure that is demanded per day. You and your competitors can set prices based on this demand, and you can even undercut your competitors by offering deep discounts.

The supply and demand mechanics add an additional layer of complexity to an already fairly complex game. Whether or not you think that's a good thing depends on how full your brain was from the basics of Big Pharma pre-DLC. I was somewhat surprised by how elastic demand is - even if people need cures and there's a shortage, they might still refuse to buy my products.

On top of this, you also unlock "Executives" for researching certain projects, and these can be assigned to special tasks to attempt to boost your drugs' sale rate. These range from the innocuous (social media campaigns) to the downright unethical - things like paying for drug trials and suppressing the results. This is all in keeping with the satire of Big Pharma's simulation, and this feature is far more outright in its criticism than some in the base game.

There's also a couple of new machines to deploy in Marketing and Malpractice. The first is the "booster mixer," which will take "booster effects" off of ingredients and apply them to your drugs.

These "booster effects" are new for Marketing and Malpractice, and they are present on certain ingredients. They tend to have an effect on only certain types of cures, or certain formulations (like creams or pills).

I noticed that the overall complexity of leveling up cures has gone down in favor of these boosters. I could get much further in the cure tree without using catalysts, for instance. That in turn made my production lines simpler.

The other important new machine to note is the "stock gate," which can redirect ingredients and cures based on the stock level of a given cure. This allows you to create dynamic drug pipelines that can reconfigure themselves based on supply and demand for your drugs.

Aside from the game mechanics changes, not much else is different in Marketing and Malpractice. There aren't any new scenarios that I noticed, except for an extra tutorial mission.

I was hoping that the mod community would spring up around Big Pharma and give us some interesting new machines and mechanics to play with. However, apparently the mod tools are relatively simple, and so the mod support overall is pretty simplistic.

Marketing and Malpractice doesn't do anything to change this, although it will break compatibility with existing mods until they've been updated for the new data files included with Marketing and Malpractice.

Marketing and Malpractice adds an additional layer of complexity on Big Pharma's already complex factory simulation. If you felt like Big Pharma was just not complicated enough as is, this DLC will give you a bit more to play with. It doesn't address most of the issues I have with the base game, however, and adds no new scenarios or additional mod support.