It’s been almost six weeks since Nintendo launched Fire Emblem Heroes, its first proper free-to-play mobile game.
However, given that during this period Nintendo also launched Switch, its seventh home console (sort of), it’s not a great surprise Fire Emblem Heroes’ post-launch performance has fallen off the radar.
Time to make amends.
As I’ve previously argued, Fire Emblem Heroes is primarily aimed at the core Japanese RPG market.
For one thing, it’s the domestic market for the three companies involved in the game - Nintendo, DeNA and Intelligent Systems.
For another, it’s the most lucrative market in world in terms of revenues per player with top grossing games such as Puzzle & Dragons and Monster Strike capable of generating over $1 billion annually just from the Japanese app stores alone.
Looking at the game’s top grossing performance on the Apple App Store and Google Play store, it’s clear Fire Emblem Heroes launched well.
It was a top 10 top grossing game on the App Store and Google Play. However, as it entered week three, it dropped into the App Store top 20.
Partly, this is because Apple more frequently updates the App Store grossing position, resulting in a more volatile chart position compared to Google Play’s more stable ranking.
Events will be a key element in maintaining Fire Emblem Heroes’ ongoing success in Japan.
For this reason, it’s important not to directly compare the same ranking between app stores. Yet we can say that Fire Emblem Heroes has consistently remained in the top 10 top grossing on Google Play, whereas on the App Store, it’s a top 30 title.
More significant are the strong upticks in the game’s App Store position following the in-game events Sibling Bonds at the start of March and Blazing Shadows a week later. These time-limited events made new characters available and drove a strong increase in in-game spending.
Such events will clearly be a key element in maintaining Fire Emblem Heroes’ ongoing success in Japan.
Nintendo of America
In North America, as in Japan, Fire Emblem Heroes experienced a strong launch period.
It was a top 20 top grossing game on the App Store and top 10 top grossing title on Google Play.
Similarly, it then slipped down the App Store rankings, with in-game events boosting it back into the top 20. However, in the US market, post-Sibling Bonds, Fire Emblem Heroes almost immediately slipped further down the charts and outside the top 50.
The gains from Blazing Shadows have been better maintained, but this suggests such events have a weaker impact outside of Japan.
Fire Emblem Heroes is performing better in Canada than the US.
That stated, Fire Emblem Heroes has experienced a strong uptick on Google Play, where the game is back into the top 20 in Canada and the US.
And more generally, the game is performing better in Canada on the App Store and Google Play.
The Euro vision
When we look at the key European markets - France, Germany, Spain and the UK - the trends are similar to the US/Canada but the game’s overall performance is weaker.
On the App Store, the first two weeks saw Fire Emblem Heroes comfortably in the top 50 top grossing (compared to top 20 in North America and top 10 in Japan). But since, it’s slipped out of the top 100 in Germany and the UK.
On Google Play, the game again has performed weakest in Germany and the UK where it’s now outside the top 30 top grossing, and only just within for France and Spain.
Japan will be the market in which the game’s success or failure is played out.
And in none of these countries have the time-limited events had much of an impact.
What comes next?
These are still early days for Fire Emblem Heroes and it would be foolish to draw overly strong conclusions from the game’s performance.
For example, it’s yet to launch globally, including in large markets such as China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Yet, it seems clear that Japan will be the market in which the game’s long-term success or failure is played out.
This isn’t to say Western markets are irrelevant. Fire Emblem Heroes is likely to have generated well over $10 million to-date but how quickly it can best the ¥6 billion (c.$50 million) generated by Super Mario Run during its launch period will be down to its domestic chops.