Crime does pay when you're on Facebook, where the genre is one of the most established settings for a social game. We've had the godfather of them all, David Maestri's Mob Wars, followed by Zynga's Mafia Wars. Later on, heavyweights like Ubisoft drops in with CSI: Crime City, Sony brings us James Patterson's Catch a Killer, while THQ lets loose Saints Row®: Total Control. Each new entrant is loaded with flaws, but pushes the envelope a bit in mechanics and design, moving farther away from the tried-and-true, spreadsheet clicks-and-waits, towards something that increasingly resembles Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto.
After a buggy start last October, I think MetroGames' Auto Hustle has finally made it as a GTA clone. In fact, I'd go on and say Auto Hustle could easily rival Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the DS. That's strong praise for a Facebook game and potentially dangerous, as Auto Hustle is sure to generate controversy if it catches on.
And Auto Hustle has definitely been catching since its second unveiling. Within the past four days, activity for the game has more than doubled from 11,836 to 26,350 daily average users, while its monthly average rose from 94,310 to 132,106 (AppData). Because MetroGames can't cross-promote Auto Hustle with their family-friendly titles, the company is ready to build its userbase from scratch. They want to attract the traditional hardcore gamer (which is probably why the game uses WASD and has a pause feature) and those on Facebook who want more mature titles. While it's hard to tell which side of the fence the players are coming from, it's not hard to guess what's attracting them.
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