The Corporate Machine is a strategy computer game from Stardock in which the goal is to create a corporation in one of four industries (automobiles, aircraft, computers, or soft drinks) and eventually dominate your rival companies. To win you must dominate your chosen market (getting 55% to 65% of the market share depending on the number of opponents.) The Corporate Machine is a follow up to the game Business Tycoon, which was itself a sequel to the game Entrepreneur, all developed by Stardock.
When starting a game, you must first pick your company specialty. Three specialties are available: marketing, labor and research. Each specialty doubles your productivity in that area. After picking a specialty you will go to the start game screen where you will pick how many opponents you will face, the difficulty of the game, what map you will play on (both real and fictional maps are available), starting funds, and what industry you will compete in.
You start the game at your home site (which is randomly chosen on the map) and with one sales executive. To introduce and sell your product to other regions you must first investigate them. This process can take from 3 to 10 weeks depending on how far they are from your sites. After an area is explored, you will see the current market leader, if your opponents have sites or units there, if the region has a resource, as well as statistics like what the targeted area desires in a product, their concerns with price, how rich the region is, etc.
The Sales Executives
The sales executives increase your market penetration (the percentage of stores carrying your product) in their current regions and all regions up to two spaces away from each individual executive. The sales exec can be moved around the map freely by plane; however, while in transit he will not grant any penetration benefit. To gain more sales executives you must increase your profit to a certain level by the end of a year. This gets harder later on as the amount that you must make to gain a new executive increases. It is also possible to get them through the use of Direct Action Cards.
Your Company Sites
These places are your base of operations. Your manufacturing, research, and marketing buildings can be built and upgraded. You can purchase additional sites, but they become progressively more expensive. On your first site you will have a sales office and a garage, but every site after will only have a sales office and everything else has to be built. Other buildings include an intelligence facility, which will generate and display information in the form of graphs. Company stores can be built at any of your sites to decrease employee expenses (and therefore lower employee cost). To get better performance you can build a training center to increase employee efficiency. Employee happiness becomes a factor as well, as an unhappy employee's performance will suffer, so you can build a recreation center to boost morale. If you lose market leadership in an area where your site is, your employees' morale will drop sharply. Your marketing, manufacturing, and researching buildings can be accessed in order to make adjustments to the multiple operations within your company. Sales buildings act similarly to sales executives that cannot be moved from region to region.
The Marketing Department
When you build the marketing building you will then be able to hire and fire marketers. Marketing associates can be used to create marketing campaigns. As campaigns are created, your marketing associate availability drops and you are forced to build more marketing buildings in order to have more campaigns. These buildings can be upgraded to have more employees and to have more powerful marketing campaigns. You can create both positive campaigns to boost the qualities of your own product, or negative marketing campaigns to decrease the appeal of an opponents product. You also have your choice of media: you can take your advertisements to print, to the radio waves, or to the television. Marketing campaigns can be moved from region to region similarly to a sales executive.
You start out with a simple garage and can upgrade it to bigger factories. Larger factories allow you to hire additional employees and increase the efficiency. You can choose to hire or fire employees as your demand rises or falls. The production screen is where you adjust the price of your product. If your product is better compared to other companies you can afford to overcharge a little. Be careful not to raise your price too much as your demand will drop quickly if there are different companies in the same area and you could lose market leadership in that particular area.
This is where scientists develop new technologies to upgrade your product. The bigger your research building, the more scientists you can hire, so upgrades will come faster. You are able to queue 4 projects so you don't have constantly have to come back to this screen and choose new technologies. Different projects take different amounts of time, and later projects will require more research to finish. Different projects also give different bonuses, such as decreasing the cost to manufacture or increase the appeal to consumers.
Direct Action Cards
Different regions may or may not have a resource in it. There are 5 different resource types: Labor, Government, Intelligence, Marketing, and Underworld. Every year you control a region that has a resource, you receive 1 of those resource points. Having resource points allows you to play the direct action cards.
You start the game with 2 cards and receive an additional card every year. Direct action cards cost various amounts of resources, and may have a monetary cost in addition. Cards have a wide variety of effects, such as: receiving money from the government, a research boon, revealing large blocks of regions, twisting the desires of consumers, physical destruction of your competitors assets, cutting costs through illegal activities, publicity boosts and other unique events. The direct action card system has been likened to the card game Magic: The Gathering.
The Corporate Machine’s popularity has decreased over the years since the game was first introduced. Recently a fan of the game (known as Money) has tried to reunite TCM community by creating a forum, tutorials, help, and support.
The main problem that the community is facing is that Stardock's TCM server (which allows users to play online) is down often, disabling internet play.
The community is considering creating a new, more reliable server on which to play (see external links).