With the release of Nintendo and Intelligent Systems' Fire Emblem Engage on Switch, the influence of hit mobile title Fire Emblem Heroes is now clear. Between familiar character attributes, returning voice actors, streamlined user interfaces and more, Heroes almost looks like a testing ground for the new title in retrospect; Engage even has its own version of a gacha system.
That isn’t to say that’s all mobile hit Heroes has ever been, of course – over the past six years, the title has grown into the role of Nintendo’s biggest mobile game. Having reached $1 billion in lifetime revenue last year, Heroes has far outpaced the likes of Mario Kart Tour and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which had respectively generated £282 million and $281.6 million in revenue by that time as Nintendo’s second and third-biggest titles.
Mobile is required for the full experience
Now, to engage with everything the new Fire Emblem entry has to offer, playing Heroes is a necessity. Exclusive items are obtainable via Heroes, with each player gaining a unique code to input on Switch and unlock them in Engage.
There are also three powerful weapons – Fólkvang, Fensalir and Nóatún – which solely appeared in Heroes in the hands of protagonists Alfonse, Sharena and Anna before now. They are now unlockable in Engage only by players activating the Order of Heroes set which, naturally, requires playing Heroes. Then, these weapons can be used by almost anybody in-game, providing they have the correct weapon aptitude level.
Utilising Heroes’ framework
Engage is full of references and callbacks to the whole franchise, with at least one character per main series game. Notably, almost all returning characters have won Fire Emblem Heroes’ annual Choose Your Legends popularity competition at some point. In fact, all four of the original Choose Your Legends winners in Heroes have been included in the Engage roster, so it isn’t a stretch to imagine this competition contributed to character decisions for the game – to market the most beloved characters to fans and increase sales of the new Switch title.
Some such characters have received redesigns and new weapons based on their Heroes appearances too, such as a mural depicting Lucina with a bow like in one of her Heroes alts. Similarly, returning legacy characters such as Sigurd didn’t have voice actors in their original titles, but do in Heroes, and many of these voice actors have reprised their roles in Engage; all around, the impact Heroes is having on the main series is indisputable.
Prior to Engage’s release, a batch of characters from the game was added to Heroes’ gacha first and a series of promotional quests were held to advertise the new entry in the franchise. Chloé, Céline, Alfred and protagonist Alear were the initial additions to the gacha, meanwhile Etie and Lumera have been made freely available.
Whilst free – only requiring an in-game currency – Engage even features its own gacha system for summoning characters in the form of Bond Rings, which is surely a homage to the mobile title. After all, Heroes’ gacha mechanic is the groundwork upon which the majority of its revenue is built.
As revealed in a recent statement by Nintendo, the company considers mobile to be a marketing tool rather than a revenue generator, using the platform to reach new players with its intellectual properties – words certainly being put into action in this case. It is interesting to note that Nintendo holds this sentiment even now that its mobile downloads are "equivalent to the cumulative unit sales total of all Nintendo hardware".
Nintendo and DeNA announced a new partnership in November 2022 to research and develop digital services, forming Nintendo Systems. In December, Fire Emblem Heroes celebrated its Version 7 update with the addition of its latest story.