Questions by: Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), General Manager
Answers by: Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, Head of the Mobile Revolution
Today NDA has finally lifted on quite the secret announcement Perfect World Entertainment has been waiting to spring on us. With deals being signed and release dates being finalized, they felt it was time to reveal to their community and the world their plans to initiate war on the mobile market with a string of profitable, powerful, and well-proven titles from across the world and hitting multiple genres previously untouched by the PWE line-up. I was lucky enough to get twenty minutes last week with the man spearheading the effort, Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, to learn about the overall strategy and games involved with this push.
DizzyPW: Ok Fabien let’s get right into the details since you’re busy preparing for next week’s announcement. Perfect World Entertainment did so well in the online gaming industry because they began building up a reputation and client-base early in the game. Basically Perfect World was big in China before World of Warcraft even struck. Mobile is a different story. How are you going to jump into an already maturing market?
Fabien: It’s challenging for sure. But while you might lose the first mover advantage, you can make up for it by learning and adapting to what has worked, while avoiding the mistakes of what hasn’t. For instance there is the Ubisoft style mobile initiative in which they just adapt what has been successful on the PC and console and try to push it into a phone environment without any real direction. That’s not the way to go about it and why we’re not just making PWI Mobile.
In comparison you have companies like GungHo who, although not native to mobile gaming, quickly learned how to adapt and build gaming experiences revolving around the limitations the platform offers. Titles like Kingdoms of Camelot and Candy Crush Saga are where mobile is at right now. And it’s just a question of what titles can match the next popular wave of our community’s wants without being brushed off as just a copy. It’s the WoW-Clone conundrum all over again. And the ultimate solution is to not only provide the highest quality game, but to market it in a way that makes users realize that it’s of that quality so they actually give it a chance.
DizzyPW: And in terms of that marketing, PWE has some strengths. You’re one of the few publishing companies doing well in the current MMORPG market and coming off the monumental success of Neverwinter, you should be in good shape to push a mobile platform at last. Do you intend to tie your mobile games into the new Arc platform?
Fabien: There’s still a lot of paperwork and agreements to finalize. It’s much harder dealing with Google and Apple to launch a mobile title than it is to just push another PC game into the wide world of the Internet. But we do intend to make our mobile line-up part of the Arc platform to get our current userbase to try out the mobile gaming world with minimal hoops involved. But we recognize also that MMORPG and Mobile gamers don’t always overlap so well, and so we’ll surely be offering standard PC username and password account log-in as well as Facebook log-in. Best of all, our titles will remain free-to-play across the board so account creation will be the only limitation to getting into our games.
DizzyPW: Ok think that’s about enough business talk for one interview. Let’s delve into the titles. First up you’re helping bring Sneaky Games turn-based MOBA into the mobile world?
Fabien: I love Sneaky Games. They’re just that refreshing breed of indie development studio that has the passion to make their dreams a reality. Our team spent hours at their Austin-based HQ testing out Arena of Heroes and offering our advice. We believe their one-of-a-kind take on the MOBA genre is not only better suited than many of the recent MOBA ports to mobile that lose the fun factor of what makes MOBAs successful, but is just the flagship title we need to get PWE’s mobile line of games recognized.
DizzyPW: And what’s the status on Arena of Heroes launching on your platform?
Fabien: We both agree that the title is still in the very early stages and needs a bit more time to add polish before we go full steam ahead with them. How much time is needed is something we’re still determining but we don’t want to rush them before they’re ready. We’re also planning to see their playable tutorial packaged with the launch.
DizzyPW: How about Elemental Kingdoms?
Fabien: Online trading card games are coming back into style and PWE has yet to move our hand on the genre. We figure mobile is the ideal time to do so and happened to have a working relation with another locally based Chinese company named iFree Studio who has just nailed the perfect mix of deck building and end-game skill with Elemental Kingdoms.
In addition to offering the plethora of extras in the genre like castle building, dungeon exploring, and a mix of PvE and PvP content, it offers players tough decisions that will help determine a strong player from a weak player when decks of equal strength clash. I’ve been involved with quite a few trading card titles in my work outside of PWE and I can say almost all of them were unsuccessful because they didn’t recognize the importance of this and instead made their matches 90% pay-to-win and 10% skill-based instead.
Elemental Kingdom also offers a clean user interface that we felt was ideal for the mobile market. Touch screens just make it feel so crisp and clean as you physically put your cards into place. I have high hopes for this one.
DizzyPW: Tell me about BombBuds. When I heard about this one it seemed like the most likely title to become a major addictive mobile hit.
Fabien: The older generation of gamers might recognize what BombBuds is aiming for based on the successful title Wormz. However Wormz was always a paid product in the past and the new mobile generation hooked on Angry Birds needs something like it in the free-to-play sphere. BombBuds introduces the humor of Plants v Zombies with the intense PvP action of Wormz. Players can choose to battle over a period of time with the asynchronous feature or get together with a friend and hotseat a match to keep the action popping.
Various maps and weapon types will force players to spend a good 20 to 30 games before they can truly feel confident in their skills. We’re hoping to challenge them from getting too routine in the title by offering weekly challenges to use certain weapons or win on certain maps that might not be favorable to them. And finally we’ll have unlockables including new characters to give players the incentive to keep blowing people up.
DizzyPW: While I had heard about these three titles prior, The Null Society seems to be the secret gem that’s remaining under wraps. Is there anything you can share about this title?
Fabien: We’re still figuring things out with The Null Society so at the moment all I can share is the game is an RPG Adventure game with a heavy emphasis on user generated content. The game is one of those titles that you have to play to understand though so be ready as we’ll get your team hands-on with a beta preview client soon.
DizzyPW: Well sounds like we’ll have to wait and see for ourselves. I can’t wait to test out your entire line-up and provide initial impressions on all four games in the coming weeks. Thanks for your time Fabien and good luck!