Square Enix is always looking for the next hit that will generate millions of dollars on mobile, and the publisher is testing out its latest hope to accomplish that.
The company just “soft launched” Heavenstrike Rivals in Canada and Australia. This is a testing phase that helps Square Enix see how the free-to-play role-playing game performs both monetarily and gameplay-wise. Canada and Australia are both popular test markets, and if things go well, Heavenstrike Rivals should go live worldwide sometime this winter. Square Enix is looking for a flagship game that can shoot to the top of the downloads and grossing charts and capture a big piece of the mobile market, which is on pace for more than $21 billion worldwide this year, and a small number of hugely popular names at the top absorb a bulk of that revenue.
Heavenstrike Rivals is a grid-based strategy title in which you use turn-based tactics to take on beasts and other opponents. It looks very reminiscent of developer Robot Entertainment’s Hero Academy game, which was very popular on iOS a few years ago.
To maximize its revenues, Heavenstrike Rivals developer Mediatonic is also bringing the popular collection aspect of certain top mobile games into this release. At launch, this strategy RPG will already have more than 200 characters that players can collect to build their roster of heroes.
Naturally, Square Enix is hoping to appeal to a global audience, but it is sticking to its roots. To accomplish that, it brought in Final Fantasy Tactics artist Ryoma Ito to do the designs for a number of the characters. And Final Fantasy composer Ryo Yamazaki is doing the score.
Mobile gaming is not the untamed wilderness it once was. Massive hits like match-3 puzzler Candy Crush Saga and strategy game Clash of Clans have dominated the revenue charts since 2012. In Japan, Puzzle & Dragons, a RPG-puzzle mashup, has made more money than any other mobile game for all of 2013.
Smaller developers and even well-funded traditional publishers, like Square Enix, have struggled to break in against those established megahits. Heavenstrike Rivals looks like it could do well, but it’s harder than ever to tell if it will.