MMObility: Perfect World's new mobile lineup

Arena of Heroes screesnhot
When I first heard that Perfect World was finally moving into the mobile space, I was excited and a bit worried. The gaming giant publishes a wide variety of games but tends to stick with classic, three-dimensional, client-based MMOs and has even rescued or bought out a few "Western" titles. If you want a publisher with a ton of different F2P games to play, Perfect World is a solid one.

So how will it tackle the mobile world? Will it offer as much variety as it does with its other games? Will these mobile games be MMOs or pseudo-MMOs that are attached to social networks? I was able to snag some answers from Fabian Pierre Nicolas, General Manager of Mobile for Perfect World Entertainment.

Elemental Kingdoms screenshot
MMObility: How will Perfect World, known as a publisher of massive, 3-D worlds, not little tiny phone-sized ones, transition to mobile gaming? Will the company be scaled back or expanded as a result of the new focus?

In addition to phones, we are focused on making great games for the hundreds of millions of smart devices on the market with higher-end specifications. Devices like iPads, Nexus tablets, the Samsung S4, and Note 3 feature large screen sizes with great memory space. These new devices are similar to some of the mid-range PCs currently displaying our games. Most of the R and D efforts of Nvidia, Intel, and Qualcomm are working to get powerful graphic chips on these new devices despite some of their battery constraints. So be on the lookout for the massive 3-D worlds that you love from us. These experiences are now being made for our gamers to enjoy on a variety of mobile platforms. We are definitively expanding and adding onto our thriving PC business. Take a look at our teams in China. Our first mobile hit, Return of the Condor, is in the Top 10 grossing games next to Plants versus Zombies 2.

What's motivating Perfect World to branch out into a different market -- do you believe there's no more room for growth in classic MMO and PC? Will any of Perfect World's existing MMOs be affected by the shift in focus?

Our target audience on mobile is the same as on PC. They are passionate gamers like the Perfect World team members and myself. Or maybe you'd call us the "geeky gamer" crowd. Think about what we love: going to PAX or ComicCon, watching Game of Thrones or The Hobbit, and playing games in immersive worlds. Our roots are in PC gaming, and we have a lot of growth potential in this space. We are shipping DOTA 2 in China soon, and Swordsman Online debuted last June. Dungeons and Dragons Neverwinter is a smash hit for us. PC gaming is here to stay; that's what we all know at Perfect World. The naysayers are forgetting that Hollywood and the movie industry did not disappear when the TV industry started building up in the '50s. Movies are still the best way to create a new universe to love, right? There is no difference here. (On a side note, we are hiring for our PC MMO business both in China and here in the West, unlike many other MMO developers; just go to apply on the Cryptic or Perfect World Entertainment job pages.)

What's Perfect World's strategy for approaching mobile graphics quality and cross-platform play?

I have one word to describe Perfect World's vision towards mobile graphics quality: uncompromising. I mention above the new graphic chipsets deployed by Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Intel, and the great devices from Apple, Google, and Samsung. Add the power of our internal game engines or of Unity and you will see experiences matching that of the PS3 and X360. And because of our PC business, all the processes to build great games are already in place. In terms of a cross-platform play, take a look at NeverRealm, an amazing console experience, and Injustice God Among Us, an amazing mobile experience. They both provide content players can unlock via PC or mobile, but more importantly, they represent a really smart re-use of their 3-D models and textures for the mobile version.

For Perfect World Entertainment, Arena of Heroes will be a key example in our strategy for cross-platform play. PC players and mobile players will be competing against each other in this MOBA. Whether it's the real time or asynchronous PvP games, since the experience is turn-based, you won't have anyone taking advantage of playing on one platform over another. The cross-platform play allows everyone to play within a bigger community and better matchmaking. Nobody wants to keep beating newbies over and over.

Perfect World is known to rely pretty heavily on cash shops and microtransactions, but the mobile market is filled with free-to-play games that might hit up the player for tiny purchases over time. Does Perfect World plan to change its monetization policies for the mobile platform?

If you check the ARPDAU, average revenue per daily active users, or the percentage of paying users between PC and mobile core games, the difference in overall monetization that some have portrayed are not very different. Time is the most precious "currency" on mobile. If players spend between 45 minutes and two hours per day in your mobile game, then you know you will have a hit on your hands. And naturally, if you love a game and the economy is done right, you will spend some dollars.

Bombbuds screenshot
Are your mobile ideas going to pull from the existing IPs that you publish now? Are we going to see mobile versions of current titles, extension apps that players can use on top of the standard client, or totally new and separate games?

Right now, we are only announcing our first four games: Elemental Kingdoms, Arena of Heroes, BombBuds, and The Null Society. But you can imagine, since I mentioned Injustice God Among Us as a best practice, that we have plans to offer our PC players a possibility to "jump in" to a similar experience in their favorite worlds on a mobile device. Think more along the lines of extension apps or new games in the same universe. We will be very conscious not to strip down our game's rich functionalities. More to come on this topic in the coming months!

Can you give us some idea as to how Perfect World's first mobile game will play? Will it be something that appeals to the MMO crowd specifically, or will it be intended to introduce the studio to all-new audiences?

Our very first game that will go live worldwide is named Elemental Kingdoms. It's a trading card game, but "2.0", and it is already very successful in China. Why 2.0? Because we think that skills matter a lot more in this game compared to other TCG's currently in the West. Think about the ancestor of all card games: Magic: The Gathering. You never saw guys in tournaments with just a lot of money topping the ranking right? Well, we think that Elemental Kingdoms' daily and weekly contests are showing gamers the same thing: Build your deck right and play well and you can top the chart. If you spend money, it is to unlock cool cards. But it is only if you know how to build a good deck and play them well that they will come handy in PvP.

I do think some of the MMO crowd will love playing a TCG game in between two sessions of raiding dungeons and killing monsters. For some players it may be their 10-minute fix on their commute or lunch break while they wait for a friend to connect. Our second launch will be Arena of Heroes, a MOBA. We know large parts of our community are big Leagues of Legends fans. Our fans often play in between MMO sessions or while waiting the next expansion if they hit a level cap. Hence, our excitement for partnering with Sneaky Games on Arena of Heroes.

Thanks to for Fabian taking the time out to chat with me. It looks like an exciting line-up!

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

This article was originally published on Massively.