Hardcore Russian PC strategy outfit Nival on why it's going mobile and how it's going to win
Going cross-platform with depth
One of the veterans of the Russian development scene, the news that RPG and strategy specialist Nival is coming to mobile merely goes to demonstrate how important the market is becoming for all games companies.
Established in 1996, the PC gaming specialist first dipped its toes into the iOS water with the release of King's Bounty: Legions for iPad in August 2012.
This version of Nival's PC game was also linked to the Facebook release, enabling players to carry on their campaigns on desktop or on the move.
Recently enhanced with the release of iPhone and Android versions, the company has big plans for mobile in 2013, so we caught up executive director of mobile publishing Ivan Fedyanin to find out more.
Pocket Gamer: Given that you're known for RPG/strategy PC games, why is Nival now moving into mobile?
Ivan Fedyanin: Mobile is the great new frontier in gaming. This market and the horizons it opens for a new generation of strategy games can only be compared to the times when gaming consoles helped RPGs (another very profound and complex genre) to go through their renaissance.
Just as consoles supported RPGs in the past, mobile devices are now bringing strategy games to the masses.
There are several reasons for this. First, touchscreens give players more intuitive and easy-to-handle controls. Second, it's much simpler to install an app on a tablet than to install a game on a PC. And third, tablets allow players to be online wherever they go.
The growing mobile market has also created a new audience of gamers, many who have never before played video games and might not even identify as gamers in the traditional sense. By expanding into mobile, we're placing ourselves in the best position to connect with this audience.
Of course, just because we're moving into mobile doesn't mean that we'll stop developing for PC or Mac. King's Bounty: Legions has demonstrated that it's possible to create deep, engaging games for both PC and mobile devices without sacrificing any of the core game elements.
Why do you think the sort of games you make will perform well on mobile?
I think casual gamers will eventually get bored of leveling up to get a new rake for their crops. I don't mean that offensively, of course, but in all seriousness, I believe that so-called casual gamers are all potential customers, and also that they aren't as casual as they may think.
An early battle screen in King's Bounty: Legions
Eventually, they'll want to graduate to a more serious and complex gaming experience. That's where we fit in, and our mobile strategy is a big part of being prepared for the coming storm.
We're poised to perform well on mobile because our games give players the opportunity to truly compete with each other, both synchronously and asynchronously, and in strategic ways. Players like to engage in face-off challenges, and that's what we deliver.
Making and deploying games for mobile devices is very different to online/PC so how will you gain the experience to be successful? Will you be looking to acquire mobile developers?
King's Bounty is a highly successful PC title and we understood the huge responsibility of making a mobile game that would live up to its reputation.
We asked KranX Productions to develop the game because we knew that it shared our vision and would work alongside us on this project. Together, we carefully collaborated on a game that could be played on any device. At this point, we don't have any news to share about acquiring mobile developers.
What countries will you focus on for your mobile releases?
King's Bounty: Legions is already the #1 RPG in 17 countries and a top-ten ranked overall game in seven countries, including the US. It makes sense to hone in on these markets, but that's still a lot of ground to cover!
A n00b takes his first steps...
Our primary focus is expanding our audience in the US. People in the US own multiple devices, and we want them able to play our games on every platform they own.
You released King's Bounty: Legions for iPad in mid-2012. What's the reaction been?
The public reception of our game has been very positive. We filled an important void by giving turn-based strategy lovers (such as fans of King's Bounty and the Heroes of Might & Magic series) the chance to play their favourite type of game, with similar mechanics, on a mobile device.
Our install numbers grow each month. I believe this is because players are responding positively to our cross-platform features. You can play King's Bounty: Legions on Facebook on your PC and continue playing on your iPad without skipping a beat. Gamers love this versatility, especially since it has no negative affect on gameplay.
The game's now coming to Android and iPhone too so do you think it will find many new players on these platforms, or is the release more about allowing its existing web players to access their game while on the move?
It's about giving players freedom of choice. Now that the game is cross-platform, you can pick up whatever device you have and continue your journey in the King's Bounty world.
Of course, we also believe that the release of the Android version will attract new users who didn't previously play the game on desktop.
Have you seen any difference in terms of daily activity rate and/or monetisation from iPad players compared to web players?
Both are twice or even three times higher on iPad than on the web. The vast majority of the iOS audience enjoys gaming - plus, they're open to discovering new entertainment experiences and willing to pay for the ones that they like.
The PVP and strategy sector on mobile is very competitive at the moment with the likes of Supercell, Kabam, Mobage, GREE etc. How do you think Nival will compete?
These companies all release interesting games in their own right. We think mobile gamers of the world will like these different approaches to the strategies, ours included.
Your next big PC release is Prime World. Will that be coming to mobile devices too?
Prime World's core gameplay requires players to develop complex game management skills. Unfortunately, mobile devices aren't well suited for this type of game, primarily because they lack physical keyboards.
We're currently exploring several ways to bring the core Prime World experience to mobile devices without dumbing it down, but this probably won't happen soon.
We're also working on different applications set in the Prime World universe, such as Prime World: Alchemy, which was recently released on Kindle Fire and will soon be available on iOS and Android devices.
What about plans for your other PC games such as Blitzkrieg, Rage of Mages and Etherlords?
We're not ready to make any announcements yet, but of course we're not forgetting about our other properties.
We want to create new games in these universes that appeal to new gamers as well as fans of the original franchises. Expect to hear more about those games this year.
Thanks to Ivan for his time.
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