NetEase go for maximum 'Impact' with new RPG Project Mugen

NetEase is in pursuit of MiHoYo’s 'supergame' throne with two studios working on their new open-world urban RPG

NetEase go for maximum 'Impact' with new RPG Project Mugen

NetEase has teased a new game, with the working title Project Mugen. The open-world urban RPG is being co-developed by NetEase games and Thunder Fire Studio subsidiary Naked Rain, with team members in China and Montreal utilising their diverse cultures on the title. The game is being developed as a free-to-play title for mobile, PC, and PlayStation consoles.

"Project Mugen is our love letter to urban fantasies. We wanted to create a world that players could relate to, yet find enough mysteries to keep them coming back,” said Thunder Fire Studio senior marketing director Riten Huang. “The city is alive, and every player will have their unique journey through it.”

The game is set in a world inspired by Earth, with the key difference being the coexistence of humans and the supernatural. Players take the role of a so-called Esper, investigating anomalies and supernatural occurrences that threaten the balance, and tackling threats to humanity.

"Today's unveiling of 'Project Mugen' extends beyond this announcement; it represents NetEase Games’ spirit of global collaboration, creativity, and innovation to push the envelope in interactive storytelling,” said NetEase senior vice president Ethan Wang. “This project draws on development talent from Hangzhou to Montreal, reflecting our dedication to transcending boundaries and redefining gaming experiences. “By merging a modern metropolis setting with elements of mysticism, we’re excited to create a world where every player can find a moment that resonates with them."

Aiming for the throne

NetEase is a longstanding leader in the mobile games space, but this dominance has been challenged in recent years by changing regulations in China and the rapidly changing mobile landscape. While it remains a dominant player, other companies are gaining fast.

Among these companies is MiHoYo, which arguably became the prime example of cross-platform success with Genshin Impact - and continued this success with Honkai: Star Rail. MiHoYo recently took the crown in our Top 50 Mobile Game Makers 2023 on account of their work with Genshin Impact and then being able to repeat this success with Honkai: Star Rail.

Mobile is an accessible platform for developers thanks to the lower production costs, but AAA games such as Genshin Impact and NetEase's ambitious Projecct Mugen cost significantly more than your average hypercasual game. And the notion of a huge team (in Mugen's case two teams) spending years developing a game only to then make it free-to-play is a concept that remains alien to old school publishers weaned on PC and consoles.

As such, it’s only the very biggest players in the mobile space that can compete in this supergame sector, and it's a risky game to play, while other developers prefer to stick to what they know. MiHoYo has a massive advantage in the genre, but it's one that rival giants NetEase are willing to challenge.

We listed both NetEase and MiHoYo as two of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2023.

Staff Writer

Lewis Rees is a journalist, author, and escape room enthusiast based in South Wales. He got his degree in Film and Video from the University of Glamorgan. He's been a gamer all his life.