Ubisoft is expanding into China in a big way with the upcoming release of Might & Magic Heroes: Era of Chaos, a mobile game created exclusively for China. Developed by Playcrab and published by Tencent, Era of Chaos transforms the classic gameplay of Might & Magic Heroes into a strategy card game tailored to the tastes of Chinese players. Slated for a June release on iOS and Android, the game’s arrival marks an important step for Ubisoft as it expands into the dynamic, intensely competitive Chinese mobile market.
“Playcrab was among the first studios we selected based on this strategy,” says Aurélien Palasse, head of licensing and publishing at Ubisoft Mobile China. “First, they had an impressive track record of high quality and commercially successful mobile games. Then they really convinced us all by showing a genuine passion and enticing vision for the Might & Magic franchise.”
Playcrab is an award-winning studio that previously developed the mobile version of the classic fighting game King of Fighters 98 (also published by Tencent), which ranked at the top of China’s biggest app stores at launch. Meanwhile Tencent’s diverse portfolio includes WeChat, a multipurpose app that boasts more than 889 million users, and which can be uses to distribute exclusive games.
“In addition to having access to the largest pool of players in China through Wechat, QQ, their other apps, and their sprawling networks of websites and subsidiaries, Tencent is one of the very few publishers with the resources and know-how to truly help developers significantly improve their games’ benchmarks during the final stage of production and turn them into immensely successful juggernauts at launch,” says Palasse. “It is definitely an incredible opportunity for Ubisoft to have them onboard, and also a very good sign regarding the prospects and future performance of our game.”
“It is definitely an incredible opportunity for Ubisoft to have them onboard.”
Success in the Chinese mobile arena, Palasse explains, requires a drastically different approach from North America or Europe. Tastes in everything from gameplay to monetization differ immensely, and it’s essential to quickly and continually deliver original content, events, and messages to keep players engaged.
“For instance, any game in China, even the most casual ones, must offer a wide array of chat, social features and PvP modes, while in the West many games can do well without any of these,” Palasse says. “It is truly frenetic, and incomparable to the way we do things ‘in the West’. The point is that there is clearly a very local expertise that one needs in order to launch a successful product in China, so we need to be there locally, to connect and develop strong business relationships with top developers and publishers who will help us grow as a brand and company in China.”
Might & Magic Heroes in particular has an edge, however, in that the franchise already has a following in China.
“Chinese players are very fond of retro IP from the ’90s and ’00s, such as King of Fighters 98,” Palasse says. “We are fortunate to have one of these incredibly popular retro, cult IPs in our portfolio with Might & Magic Heroes. Heroes III in particular is considered a legendary installment, and a whole generation of gamers have grown up with it and still have fond memories, which is why Tencent was eager to publish Era of Chaos.”
To ensure that Era of Chaos would deliver a high quality experience in line with what Might & Magic fans expect, the game was developed with involvement from Ubisoft Mobile and the Might & Magic brand team, who took an active role during every stage of the game’s development. Ultimately, however, the game is being shaped by Playcrab’s expertise in strategy and action-RPG games, which Palasse calls a perfect match for the franchise.
“We are fortunate to have one of these incredibly popular retro, cult IPs in our portfolio with Might & Magic Heroes.”
“In the end, it is no surprise that Playcrab pulled it off and succeeded in creating a true Might & Magic Heroes game for mobile that not only appeals to the fans of the series, but also to the larger mobile player audience,” Palasse says. “Also, Tencent is incredibly selective in the games they publish. They definitely favor quality over quantity. The only few other western IP games available on the store are King’s Candy Crush, Supercell’s Clash Royale and Infinity Blade. It is definitely a great achievement for Ubisoft to successfully position one of our IP here among the best.”
Ubisoft’s partnership with Playcrab and Tencent also signifies a continued strategy that Ubisoft hopes to expand on in the future. “We aim to continue developing our presence and business there based on the same strategy of building strong relationships with the best partners locally, and keeping on leveraging the ‘hunger’ for AAA and classic IPs, which we have plenty of in our portfolio,” says Palasse. “We have other exciting projects in the works with great partners.”