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Com2uS on Summoners War's rapid expansion and applying lessons learnt to Skylanders: Ring of Heroes

"I think that gaming is a hits-driven business in the same way that publishing is a hits-driven business"
Com2uS on Summoners War's rapid expansion and applying lessons learnt to Skylanders: Ring of Heroes
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It's been a busy year at Com2uS, with flagship title Summoners War getting an IP expansion reflective of a game that's said to have made over $1.3 billion.

According to Com2us, more than 90 million players have downloaded the game to date.

Along with the usual fare of esports, in-game events and expansions, Com2uS has extended the Summoners War IP to toys, animation and comics.

It partnered up with Funko to create a Funko Pop! line of products at the turn of the year, along with digital items such as emojis, digital cards and custom avatar options for its Pop! Yourself commodity.

Months prior in November 2017 it partnered up with the Walking Dead developer Skybound Entertainment to create comics and an animation based on its IP.

Hit games are, however, a fickle business. Maintaining a hit and enjoying the moment is all well and good but keeping it lasting for the long-term is a challenge and as such it's wise to go looking for that next hit. It's something even Puzzle & Dragons developer GungHo has had to deal with.

Next up to bat for Com2uS is Skylanders: Ring of Heroes. An RPG based on collecting monsters and a timed turn-based battle system, it appears a tad more Pokemon and Final Fantasy 7 than Spyro the Dragon. 

Gone is the toys-to-life element that the series is known for, but with the state of the market in mind, it could just do the trick. 

We caught up with Gamevil Com2uS European general manager David Mohr at GamesCom a short spell ago to find out more. 

PocketGamer.Biz: Summoners War has been a great success for Com2uS, but how have you been looking to follow it up?

David Mohr: With Summoners War we’ve been pushing very heavily on the whole IP. 

We partnered with The Walking Dead creator Skybound to create comic books and animations, Funko Pop to develop toys and we have other IP partnerships in the making.

We’re also pushing very heavily on the esports side with Summoners War and continue to do world arena championship tournaments. We did a very big tournament series last year and we’re doing it again this year.

As we speak, we have the Japanese regional final happening and the European final will be held in Berlin in September. We just had an online qualifier for the tournament two weeks ago and we’ll have a big world final in Korea with a prize pool of over $1,100.

Summoners War
Summoners War

We continue to push heavily on Summoners War, and we released a lot of guild content a couple of weeks ago to keep our players engaged because the game has been going strong for four years now. 

We also have another Summoners War title coming out next year, which will be an MMO game.

Others companies like GungHo and Mixi have experienced long but lucrative declines with their flagship games but have struggled to replace them for years, what's your strategy to avoiding that? Do you think Skylanders could be that game?

I think that gaming is a hits-driven business in the same way that publishing is a hits-driven business.

“I think that gaming is a hits-driven business in the same way that publishing is a hits-driven business.”
David Mohr

We are very fortunate that we have a game like Summoners War that has been going strong for so long, it was top two in France yesterday and it’s a top five grossing game in Germany at the moment, so it’s still going very strongly.

I wouldn’t say it’s in decline at all and we continue to push on that with the things I’ve just mentioned.

We want to give players more to experience around the game, that’s why we’re creating this global championship tournament series.

But it’s also a big fan event, like in Paris last year we had over a thousand people come out and attend the event. In the US, we will have a big theme-park style event for players to check out around September 8th.

Then in Berlin, we’re taking over an old-school cinema location to also have this cool experience. We want to show players that this is for real and that there is something to experience outside of the mobile game.

Overall, of course, as a company, we’re always releasing new titles and we’re hoping to have a hit on the scale of Summoners War.

So Skylanders is hopefully a good contender for that. We’ll see very soon in October.

Has there been anything you’ve learnt with Summoners War that has helped you with Skylanders? Can you tell me a little bit about Skylanders: Ring of Heroes?

The Skylanders mobile game is different from the console game, it’s not an action-platformer-style game it’sana RPG. So some of the mechanics may be similar to what Summoners War has done, which if you look at Skylanders you can kind-of see as it’s also about collecting creatures and making them stronger.

So, of course, there are a lot of learnings we can apply to this new game.

Summoners War
Summoners War

Four years after the launch of Summoners War, I think with Skylanders we are creating a creature collection RPG with higher quality, nicer graphics and even more interesting systems and meta-game.

We’ve already had a successful beta, so we hope to build on what we already did and take it further.

What was the thinking behind bringing it to mobile?

I think taking an IP like Skylanders to mobile makes a lot of sense.

“There are not many games like Summoners War, where the success is distributed very equally not just in Japan and Korea, but the US and Europe too.”
David Mohr

For a company like Activision, and I personally wasn’t involved in the initial talks between Com2uS and Activision, but I think they were looking for a partner that has relevant experience. We’ve shown with the success of Summoners War that we have that.

For us, of course, it was very interesting to work on an IP like Skylanders.

It’s a very very strong and Western IP and we feel like Summoners War is one of the games that is working very well across the world.

There are not many games like that, where the success is distributed very equally not just in Japan and Korea, but the US and Europe too.

We have almost 20 per cent of our revenue from these regions, so it’s very equal, and you’ll see that not a lot of Korean games are like that.

What was the thinking behind ditching the toys-to-life element? Do you think fans will still be enticed by a Skylanders game without that?

Well, we certainly hope so, I think if you look at what’s been happening in the last few years there have been a lot of toy-driven games but also titles with accessories like guitars and all kinds of stuff.

Your room kind of clutters, I don’t know how many guitars I still have from Rock Band and Guitar Hero, along with toys and other stuff. So we thought since you’re going to be on your mobile phone that it would be difficult to bring your toys around with you all the time.

Skylanders: Ring of Heroes
Skylanders: Ring of Heroes

So we found a way for it to make sense to just take the portal masters into the game. The evil wizard Kaos has collapsed the portals, so you have to go into the Skylands and fix everything.

So we’re working entirely without the toys, you don’t have to buy any. You find and collect the Skylanders in-game.

Do you think that toys-to-life can still work or has the market moved on?

We’ve seen most of the toy-focused companies slow down on that business a few years ago even.

I think you can still see some very successful accessories like the amiibo from Nintendo, an addition-you-don’t-need but as a collector it’s a "so nice I want to have it” kind of thing.

You also don’t need to get 500 of them to get something out of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for example.

Skylanders: Ring of Heroes
Skylanders: Ring of Heroes

“We’ve seen most of the toy-focused companies slow down on that business a few years ago even.”
David Mohr

So I think from the collector's point of view it makes a lot of sense to have toys. If you like something, you want to get stuff around it.

But I think having to combine the two things to play is a bit difficult, especially on mobile.

What is your opinion of the mobile games market for a title like Skylanders right now?

I think the market is getting very interesting, the mobile market has always been very exciting and we see a lot of exciting new developments. Like the big MMO-craze at the beginning of the year and the end of last year.

For us, we hope that with Skylanders we will get a lot of attention to the brand. We think it makes a lot of sense to partner with big names like that because the market is getting more and more saturated and there are more and more titles out there.

So we hope that together with Activision we can get a lot of attention to this game and then deliver a nice experience for our fans.

This article is part of our South Korea Special this week.

Join Steel Media and Jagex Partners to explore the Korean market first hand at G-STAR, the biggest games conference in the region. We're running the finale of the Big Indie Awards, two Big Indie Pitches and a PG Party in association with, Jagex and G-Star, whilst Jagex is launching its Jagex Partner program, looking to connect with developers and publishers in the 'living games' space.

Want to learn more about the global games industry? Check out our East Meets West track and more at Pocket Gamer Connects London on January 21st to 22nd.