On the pre-order website, Automation is described as "a car company tycoon game in which you design and build cars from scratch. It is you who designs everything from the very core that is the engine, over the chassis, to the suspension and the car's looks." Which makes it sound like yet another sim game -- SimCity, Railroad Tycoon, RollerCoaster Tycoon -- in which players compete to build a top-notch city, railroad, or theme park.
The problem with most of those games is that they're not much more complicated than a good Tamagotchi. Once you figure out the games' algorithms, you could win them in your sleep.
A more detailed description doesn't do much to dispel the notion that Automation fits squarely within the sim tradition:
Within Automation you will take the reigns of a car company and manage it by yourself, with or against up to 15 friends. Starting post WWII, the world is rebuilding and they want cars. It will be your job to run a successful car company, striving towards a variety of different goals. To win you will have to design cars to meet various market demands and needs. Produce a large, powerful sedan for the americas [sic], small hatchbacks for the europeans [sic] or hypercars for the super rich. This is just a small selection of what you will be able to produce.
But in a demo video, developers Caswal Parker and Andrew Lamb show that while Automation's form may be similar to other games, its content is much more complex. Players appear to have complete control over the design process, working in what looks to be a simplified version of AutoCAD to hone the shape, structure, and style of every vehicle. Those vehicles are then placed in the post-WWII world of Automation to see how they fare with consumers. In short, Automation seems like two games in one.
We haven't gotten our hands on a trial version of the game because as yet, there isn't one. In fact, Automation is still in development and needs some help from pre-orders before Parker, Lamb, and company can ready the game for consumers. The pre-order price is $20 Aus ($21 US), which is $10 off the projected final price of $30. It's pretty clear that Automation will launch for PCs; console versions are probably a long way off.
Still not convinced? Have a look at this clip of Parker and Lamb discussing the game and let us know if you'd be willing to spend your holiday dollars on this.