Is it possible for an unpopular game in one country to survive through an overseas expansion? Most would say it’s pretty unlikely, but a global expansion can provide benefits for even the most obscure game. For instance, it guarantees more players and a better chance of reaching the target audience. On the other hand, it also means the game has to compete with many more games than before.
The company has to consider quite a few factors in order to enter the overseas market. Different languages and cultures have to be taken into account. Developers may need to tweak their game depending on the circumstances in each region. Time differences cannot be ignored either, and there will be tons of preparations needed if the game is to be made into one global build.
One game that recently went through this arduous process is Returners, a management RPG which was released during the winter of 2016 in South Korea. While the game is nowhere to be found on the ranking list right now, it has stepped into the global market in 152 countries.
Simply speaking, the game’s download numbers and revenue ranking are considerably low. Released on December 8th, 2016, it went off the list after 1 year of service and players soon began to forget about it. However, Returners made a major return, having resurrected itself on May 10th across 152 countries.
The results have not been bad. Based on Google Play on May 29th, the download rank in Thailand is 29, followed by Canada (32), Singapore (43), Hong Kong (87), and Macau (92). The game has entered the top 100 in 8 countries now. The game’s standing in other countries such as the UK, Vietnam, Spain, and Taiwan are on also the rise. Although they are still in between 100th and 150th, the number of downloads is steadily increasing.
The highest ranks the game has achieved so far are 5th in Hong Kong, 7th in Taiwan, and 21st in the Philippines, proving that the title has been doing considerably well in the Southeast Asian region. The results in NA and EU are also considerable. The title reached 10th for most downloads in Canada, 20th in Span, and 27th in Germany.
The sales rank also seems positive. According to the Google Play games sales, it achieved 13th in Vietnam, 57th in Hong Kong, and 67th in the US. iOS also shows that it is 7th in Brunei, 14th in Thailand, and 18th in Singapore.
Although they did not hold the position as long as expected, it was evidence of the potential of Returners, and that a seemingly unfamiliar genre called management RPG can work in other countries.
What features attracted global players the most?
Returners’ features are quite straightforward compared to other games. While other games focus more on increasing attack damage and acquiring better items, the strategic composition heavily affects playstyle in this game. It is due to the nature of this game; in management RPGs a player needs to organize parties, set up strategies, and watch the result.
The game focuses on training acquired heroes and using them strategically. The only part of combat that a player can directly control influence is ‘cards’ that inflict damage or provide additional effects. Characters have their targets set prior to a battle, and the rate of skills being cast changes depending on their condition. In summary, the processes of acquiring, training, and managing characters all interconnect with each other.
Moreover, the title encompasses a broad range of different cultures. There are many historical figures and heroes of legend in the game that come from cultures around the world. No matter where they’re from, players are bound to find a character they recognize.
Also, since characters are not obtained through RNG, players don’t have to deal with the frustration of never getting their favorite character. Characters with diverse skills, types, and strategies are provided based on what the player achieves. A player needs to complete either a certain difficulty of a stage or league to be granted a chance of purchasing characters with specific resources. They can be bought with real-money resources in advance, or with gold upon completing certain criteria.
Collected and strengthened heroes are used strategically in unsynchronized PvP. Alongside the main PvP, which can feature up to 9 characters, there are also “League” and “Tournament”, which can run in the background even if a player is not directly playing the game. As the name of the genre already implies, battles are carried out based on strategies that were formed beforehand. The conditions and group composition also significantly affects the outcome.
Note that the game still runs even if a player leaves. Since all tactics are formed in advance, the game can run battles in the background and the players can claim rewards when they log in again, assuming their tactics work. Coupled with the unsynchronized PvP system, this allows players to receive prizes and compete against other players across different time zones, even when not in-game.
Winning in the league will earn you a handsome amount of rewards, and watching previous matches is also designed to help players improve their tactics. Although the PvP is not real-time, the degree of customization in regards to strategies and characters allows players to create satisfying and evolving battles.
The last thing to note is the company’s constant updates. Even though the title didn’t really achieve the highest renown, the company constantly updated and added more content to the game following its launch. Rather than simply maintaining and repairing the game, they added more heroes and additional content despite its slow decline.
This proves that the developer still cares about their content and is willing to improve it further. It is surely not an easy decision to continue investing in content development when downloads and sales are declining. Whether they had aimed for a global release from the very beginning or simply had the idea as an afterthought, the effort they put forth to execute the new release is admirable.
It is yet unclear how far the game can take itself in the global market. However, one thing that is clear is that Nexon did not carry out Returners’ global release on a whim. They spent a long time preparing and mending the game, eliminating bad features and enhancing the good ones.
3 weeks after launch, the game seems to be doing quite well. The lackluster results in South Korea became their motivation to improve and launch the game in the global market. The return of Returners is a chance for players all around the world to try out a new type of mobile game full of legendary heroes and plenty engaging strategy creation.