MapleStory M director on the challenges of bringing a 15-year-old MMORPG to mobile

Nexon's mobile MMO helped drive the Japanese publisher to one of its strongest years yet

MapleStory M director on the challenges of bringing a 15-year-old MMORPG to mobile

In terms of downloads, MapleStory M got off to a steady start for Nexon following its global launch in July 2018.

The mobile MMO, based off the hit PC games, reached five million global downloads two weeks after launch and 10 million within the first 100 days.

That release came nearly two years after it was first launched in South Korea, where it continues to perform well as a top 10/15 grosser on the App Store.

Finding new audiences

Just over half a year following its global launch, MapleStory M director Jun Choi tells the handheld port has met its goal of broadening MapleStory’s audience.

“Since the beginning of development, the main goal for MapleStory M was to broaden the audience and adapt the world of MapleStory to the mobile platform,” says Choi.

“We spent a lot of time contemplating how to transplant the overall atmosphere of the PC version to the mobile version."

Bringing any PC title to mobile is always a complex ordeal, particularly in the case of a long-running MMORPG.

MapleStory has been running on PC since 2003 and developed its own unique culture and community in those last 15 years.

“The biggest challenge was keeping true to the PC version and maintaining the friendly community that MapleStory PC created," says Choi.

"Ever since MapleStory M’s Beta, we received positive feedback from players about the PC content embedded in the mobile version and the familiar MapleStory-like atmosphere.

“Staying true to the PC version helped us create social interactions for players outside of the game by bringing friends together through social media to play together, just like back in the day.”

Platform perils

There are more fundamental differences between PC and mobile games, however. One key area is in the controls, and Choi explains how Nexon made the decision to streamline MapleStory M in key areas to avoid bogging down touchscreen players.

“Although MapleStory M is very close to MapleStory, MapleStory M provides a mobile-friendly 'Autoplay' feature to help automate some of the more simplistic tasks and quests in the game, including allowing characters to automatically slay monsters," explains Choi.

“In addition, we implemented the more intuitive Forge System, which allows mobile gamers to enhance equipment easily. We believe that these additions have greatly improved the mobile MMORPG experience helping players raise characters long-term.”

We think we’re capable of developing innovative mobile games that will make players rethink their perceptions of the mobile experience.
Jun Choi

These changes appear to have gone down well with fans. 2019 will see Nexon continue to support the mobile MMO with new content, while it further bridges the gap between the PC and mobile game.

“We appreciate that our fans have been enjoying our updates, and are working hard to bring new content updates throughout the year including the release of many classes that fans may already recognise and love," says Choi.

“We also just released the new Monster Carnival update, which includes a new dungeon where players can form a team to compete against opposing teams by bringing down monsters.”

Home comforts

The global release may have got off to a good start for downloads, but it's yet to match its success back at home in South Korea.

Still, Nexon closed out 2018 on a record-breaking high. MapleStory M may only have been part of a high-performing year, but can be considered a success for the publisher.

“We can proudly say that MapleStory M is loyal to the PC version as we’ve succeeded in bringing back the designs from MapleStory in a smartphone-friendly way," says Choi.

With a good performance locally for MapleStory M, it’s unlikely to remain the only mobile adaptation of the publisher’s past PC releases coming in future. Something that may not be lost on the company's growing list of suitors looking to acquire the firm, which are reported to include Netmarble, EA, Amazon and Comcast.

“Mobile gaming is a core part of our current focus," says Choi.

"While Nexon has a long, established reputation in PC gaming culture, we also think we’re capable of developing innovative mobile games that will make players rethink their perceptions of the mobile experience.

“At the same time, we know players also want to see us continue to adapt classic Nexon titles like MapleStory for mobile. In the future, players can expect to see both our classic Nexon games as well as brand new worlds as we continue to focus on building great mobile gaming experiences.”

Staff Writer

Natalie Clayton is an Edinburgh-based freelance writer and game developer. Besides PCGamesInsider and, she's written across the games media landscape and was named in the 2018 100 Rising Star list.