Asian gaming giant Nexon is expanding into the West, one game at a time. Today, it is announcing that it will launch a massive trading card strategy game, Mabinogi Duel, in Western markets.
The title is based on the same universe of Mabinogi, an 11-year- online game with a Welsh mythology at its heart. It is still popular, and Nexon Korea, a division of Tokyo-based Nexon, hopes to cash in on that popularity with Mabinogi Duel, which is about to begin its closed beta sign-ups.
The title is one of the first original mobile games that Nexon Korea plans to bring to the U.S., Europe, and other international markets. Like the Nexon M division, which has signed up prominent Western game developers like Brian Reynolds and John Schappert, Nexon Korea’s developers also want to reach a global stage. Nexon has also signed Western developers like Cliff Blezsinski (Gears of War) to make a PC game.
“We’re doing what’s best for our developers,” said Tommy Lee, head of mobile at Nexon Korea, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We have a game with very rich content and tons of features. We believe it has global appeal.”
He said that Nexon’s studio, Devcat, the maker of Maple Story and Vindictus, spent about 18 months working on the title. It has more than 1,000 cards for characters and creatures, suggesting a huge amount of depth, gameplay, and variety, he said.
The game also has an eight-hour single-player campaign, with a theme that ties to the Mabinogi and Vindictus online games. The multiplayer version will feature head-to-head competitive play that will let players build a deck from their collection to use during tactical duels.
Mabinogi Duel will also feature regular post-launch content updates known as “Generations” that will add more single-player campaign content and more playable cards. The game will also offer a card trading feature that lets nearby players trade cards with each other from their mobile devices through Wi-Fi. That’s something unique in mobile games, Lee said.
The strategy comes in with careful placement of units and smart use of the game’s turn-based mechanics, Lee said. The matches have no random draws, unlike in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Instead, card battles will come down to skillfully using the game’s card library. The idea is to let players relive the excitement of their favorite childhood card battle games.
“It’s not only about collecting,” Lee said. “It has balanced, competitive gameplay.”
The title is expected to debut in the coming weeks on iOS and Android, as long as the closed beta tests go well, Lee said. Nexon plans to localize the title in German, Spanish, and Russian. Mabinogi has an established brand name around the globe, and Lee hopes that Western gamers who know it will give the mobile game a try.
The North American and European beta test for Android beings on March 23 and ends on April 2. Players can pre-register.
“Mabinogi Duel isn’t just a small step. It’s a huge leap for Mabinogi and for Nexon Korea,” said Dong-Gun Kim, director of Devcat. “We’re hugely excited about blazing new trails into the US mobile gaming market, and we’re delighted to begin our journey with this new chapter in the Mabinogi brand.”
He added, “With the exception of the excellent game Hearthstone, there haven’t been many attempts to bring authentic, tactical card battles to mobile. We can’t wait to share our own take on tactical card-battling with the rest of the world.”
Nexon Korea has more titles to launch in the West, particularly if Mabinogi Duel does well.
Nexon hasn’t had a lot of success in the past with its expansions in the West with Asian content. But Lee said, “We believe we are just warming up. The market is more receptive to free-to-play titles now. It is also more competitive. But we are ready with our core titles.”