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Admissions Pricing

Author/Contributors: Greg Wolking & Steve Franks *

The amount a guest will pay for a ride depends on three basic things:

1. How much (if anything) he paid to get into the park. If you charge any admission at all, you won't be able to charge as much for your rides. The higher the admission, the lower the ride prices will have to be.

2. How exciting the ride is, and, to a certain extent, how long the ride is. You can generally charge a little more for a longer ride because your guests won't be able to ride it as often. However, if a ride is too long (more than 4 or 5 minutes), its excitement rating may be negated by the fact that guests just want to get off the darned thing before it's over!

3. How old the ride is. The "novelty factor" of a brand new coaster does allow for truly ridiculous pricing but that wanes very quickly, within a month or two. You can generate a brief surge of interest in an old ride by closing it, changing it (painting it a different color or modifying its track), then reopening it. This makes even a very old coaster count as "new" and thus produce a surge in ridership. You may even be able to raise the price a bit, but only for about a month.

-- Some Strategies --

There are three basic admission/ride pricing strategies, and the primary difference between them is when you make your money. With a well-designed park, you will eventually get nearly all of every guest's money, regardless of your pricing scheme.

1. Free admission. (This is the only possible strategy for any of the "Loopy Landscapes" scenarios.)

General Effect: Takes longer for the park to reach "critical mass", meaning that you have enough guests paying ride admissions to make the park profitable.

Once the park reaches critical mass, its profitability will tend to increase steadily and remain much more stable throughout the life of the park. Opening new rides will have little initial effect on the park's income, but will attract more guests so that the park as a whole makes more money over time.

Advantage: You can charge a lot more for all of your rides (especially rollercoasters) throughout the life of the park. Any gate admission, even if it is only $1.00, makes the guests expect to pay less for the rides.

Disadvantage: With no gate fee, there's little or no "incentive" for guests to stay in the park and "get their money's worth." If you don't have a good mix of rides (especially at least one reasonably-exciting coaster) near the park entrance, you'll have a lot more "turnover" from guests who walk in, can't find anything to ride within the first few minutes and leave, so you won't get any of their money. This may not make much difference for a well-established park, but can be a major stumbling block for those scenarios in which you have a tight budget, cannot advertise, and/or have a relatively short time to reach an attendance goal.

Hint: When there's no admission fee, there's a much wider range in ride pricing between "it's a really good value" and "I'm not paying that much to ride it." When you first open a brand new coaster, set its price as high as possible while still having your guests thinking "it's a really good value". Your guests will continue to pay that price for several years without complaint. If you're really tight on cash, you can set the price a lot higher, but you'll have to keep an eye on that ride and be ready to lower its price when they start thinking "it's too expensive."

2. Moderate admission, moderate ride prices.

General effect: Park becomes profitable more quickly, especially when starting from completely empty. This will taper off somewhat when the park reaches capacity, but not as dramatically as with the "free rides" scheme. Opening new rides will produce a mild surge in profit until the park reaches capacity again.

Advantage: More initial income, especially when starting with an empty park.

Advantage: A reasonable admission (guests always commenting that the fee is cheap) goes a long way toward winning "best value park" awards, and thus increasing the number of unsolicited new guests. This can be critical for those scenarios in which you must meet an attendance goal but aren't allowed to advertise.

Advantage: You get at least some money from each and every guest who comes in, even if they turn around and leave after a few minutes.

Disadvantage: You won't be able to charge as much for your rides, and will usually have to make the "wimpy" rides free. However, over time this leads tomore ridership for your big money-making coasters. Guests aren't paying anything to ride the wimpy rides and build up their courage, so by the time they have built up their intensity tolerance, they'll have more money to spend riding your coasters.

Hint: Don't let those monthly "your park admission is really cheap" messages lure you into raising the price every month. Otherwise, you run the risk of overcharging and defeating the purpose of this "all things in moderation" strategy. Also, the cash value of your rides themselves (and thus the park value as a whole) depreciates steadily over time, with ride values taking a big "plunge" at the end of their first year. As a result, if you're not constantly expanding the park and/or replacing old rides to keep the park value up, what's "really cheap" this month may be "too expensive" next month.

3. High admission, free rides.

General effect: Park makes a lot of money early on, but income tapers off dramatically when the park reaches capacity. In some cases, the park may end up losing money (see below). Opening new rides will produce a brief "spike" in profit, which will mostly disappear when the park again reaches capacity.

Advantage: Tremendous initial income, especially if the park value is high enough to justify your admission fee (meaning that guests are not complaining that the admission is too high). This can be useful for scenarios which have a very tight budget because you'll be able to build more rides more quickly.

Advantage: Because all rides are free, guest will stay in the park a lot longer, essentially until they can no longer afford food and drink. However, there's a downside to this (see below).

Disadvantage: If guests are complaining that the admission price is too high, some of them are turning away at the gate. They're also providing "negative publicity", which both reduces the flow of unadvertised guests and counteracts (to some extent) the effect of some advertising campaigns. If you wait until the game warns you about this at the beginning of a new month, the damage to your park's "reputation" has already been done. Therefore, keep an eye on the arriving guests each time you raise the admission price. If you see even one guest turn away, you're charging too much.

Disadvantage: If you charge too much, some guests won't be able to get into the park at all. The amount of money your guests are carrying varies depending on the scenario, although it's always a range of four $10 "steps" (e.g., $35, $45, $55, and $65). When you first start the scenario, pay attention to the people arriving to see how much money they are carrying so you know what your upper limit will be. Generally speaking, unless the entire park (including shops/stalls) is free, you want the "poorest' guest to have at least $10.00 left after admission to spend on food and souvenirs. This also means that the "richest" guests will be able to stay in the park for a very long time before they run out of money.

Disadvantage: There is no income at all from your rides. When the park reaches capacity for the number of attractions it contains, the majority of your income is from "turnover" -- current guests leaving to make room for new arrivals. Eventually, you may reach a point where most of the people are leaving because the park is too crowded and they can't find anything to ride. This makes them very unhappy and leads to excessive vandalism, etc. Unless the park is very large (roughly 2,500 guests or more) there won't be enough "turnover" to keep it profitable.

Hint: You can take advantage of the way the game's "guest generator" works by using what I call "pumping". If the park gets too full, the guest generator stops providing new guests altogether. When this happens, close the park and leave it closed until your attendance drops by about 500 guests or so. Not only will you "bleed off" a good portion of your unhappier and "wimpier" guests (who are more likely to be wandering the paths instead of riding rides), you'll make room for more guests. This gets the guest generator going again, and you'll get a fresh influx of admission cash. For example, 500 new guests at $50 per guest = $25,000 within a couple of months.

-- Which Scheme Do I Use? --

With a well-designed park, any of these admission/ride pricing schemes can be effective. Generally speaking, the "free admission" scheme works best with small parks, the "balanced admission/ride price" scheme works well for any size park, and the "high admission/free rides" scheme is only practical (in the long run) for very large parks.

With the arrival of Loopy Landscapes, I've heard a lot of complaints about the inability to charge at the gate for any of its scenarios. The most common complaint is that this isn't the way most "real world" parks work. Well, that's true-almost all major theme parks charge a fee at the gate, and nothing for individual rides.

However, RCT is not a "real world" model of a theme park. In the real world, a theme park opens in the morning and closes in the evening, so you get a new set of guests, along with money from their admission fees, each and every day. By comparison, RCT models an idealized world in which there is no night and day and its citizens never have to leave the park to sleep, go to work, or go to school. Therefore, I think the "no admission" limitation makes perfect sense for this type of model and, for me, makes the game much more challenging.

Note: All original articles have been transcribed and illustrated by Steve Franks for exclusive use at RCT Station, and are posted with the permission of Greg Wolking.


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