Zynga's Battlestone: Casual Gaming With Chinese Characteristics
Zynga Is Excited to Bring a Chinese-Style RPG to the International Mainstream
Zynga has been broadening their horizons lately: Shifting weight onto mobile, moving away from Facebook, pursuing real-money gambling, and now, getting into meatier games like Battlestone. Are RPGs part of Zynga's future? Mark Pincus says yes. What can Zynga learn from the Asian mobile gaming scene? That an RPG with the right formula can net you an insane MAU on mobile.
Note the swipe input marks going past the three little guys… Intuitive controls!
Possibly owing to the sense of mobile games being less hardcore than console/PC games, RPGs on mobile have not caught on very much in the West. In the Chinese market however, they are a staple. Developers like Linekong have been putting RPGs out almost since the Diablo days, and they have moved quite effectively from client-based to web-based and now to mobile platforms with titles like Legend of the King, which Linekong reports is doing impressively. Zynga, who is also poking around in the Chinese market (setting up a Beijing office and making deals with the likes of Tencent, for example) has taken note, but the challenge is to tailor this style of game for the West. Chinese games are known for being directed at the hardcore, and they embrace the grinding for levels, items, etc. By contrast, while more serious gamers in the West don't mind putting the work in, most gamers—especially casual gamers—are turned off by the very hardcoreness that makes them popular in China. Kind of how they had to change the rules of roulette when they brought it from Russia to America.
Zynga founder Mark Pincus is enthusiastic about Zynga's new venture, and his team has been focused on giving Battlestone a social-casual feel that makes it easy to pick up and play, while still incorporating the mechanics that addictive RPGs are made of. “Our approach is definitely learning from the success that we see with these mechanics in Asia," Pincus said. But the trick is to "find what formula really can catch on with a much more casual audience in the West.”
So Zynga wants to publish an RPG game that will not only satisfy more serious gamers, but also draw in those who have better things to do than farm gold and power-level. The controls promise to be simple one-finger gestures, and it will be easy to pull off satisfying combos by selecting multiple enemies to attack. One unique feature seems to be the ability to swap different heroes out for different situations. Nobody has explained yet exactly how character-swapping will be implemented, but the hope is that gamers will be able to develop their own unique approach to the game encourage exploration of the game's different classes. They don't want players to feel like they need to start the game with a specific “build” in mind, but of course there is room for that kind of depth for more serious gamers.
November Games, the developer that Zynga acquired in November (lol), is working hard to deliver a promising game with what seems like good core mechanics, but Zynga also promises social events like guilds and PvP tournaments, and a helping of Zynga special sauce: wrapping a game in a sleek package that makes it accessible, social, and above all, fun.