Ireland takes on the hero role in soft launches
New game Heroes of Havoc is latest international tech product to debut here
Heroes of Havoc “is an incremental RPG in which the player assembles the best team of heroes and uses them to battle through a variety of game modes”
Ireland is, in many ways, an ideal spot for soft launches of new technology.
It’s English-speaking with a small, tech-savvy population, high social media penetration and more than 1.6 million smartphones in use.
Ireland also has a comparable standard of living to larger western audiences, so it serves as a microcosm of bigger markets.
Soft launches of consumer technology in this country dates as far back as Speed Freaks for the first PlayStation in the 1990s.
Since then, Ireland has become a hotbed for such launches. Companies which have soft-launched in Ireland include social media app YapMe, exchange betting site Matchbook and international website Jolitics (also founder of Bebo).
Using Irish testing grounds even extends to individual features for larger, more established brands. The Facebook emoji reactions were made available to Irish audiences first, for instance.
British developer Kiz Studios is the latest to use Ireland as a testing ground, with their mobile role-playing game Heroes of Havoc: Idle Adventures.
“Ireland is quite popular for soft-launching,” says Craig Albeck, director of promotions at Kiz.
“The territory is big enough that it gets the number of users we need to validate everything is working, but is small enough that it doesn’t generate mainstream [international] press attention. This allows us to generate a stronger impact when we are ready to launch globally.
“Players in Ireland have a similar profile to users in our initial target territories of the US and Europe. We use a few thousand soft-launch users to get basic data about how the customers are playing the game, if they are enjoying it, if they keep playing it and if they spend money. Once those metrics meet our expectations, then we prepare for the real launch.
“Being in Ireland has a few other advantages. For example, being an English-speaking territory it means we can begin the soft-launch phase before we finish localising the game into other languages.”
Role playing games (RPGs) are becoming an increasingly popular and crowded corner of the mobile market. At first glance, Heroes of Havoc’s description sounds familiar: “Heroes of Havoc is an incremental RPG in which the player assembles the best team of heroes from their collection and uses them to battle through a variety of game modes to gain experience, kill bosses and collect loot [virtual money],” says its press release.
Albeck says: “We were heavily influenced by early incremental and idle clickers; games like Cookie Clicker, Clicker Heroes and Adventure Capitalist. Those games were eating up a lot of people’s time around the office; they are very addictive even though they are very light on systems.
“On the other side, there are a lot of RPGs on mobile that have amazing progression and collection mechanics, but effectively auto-play through battles with very little user input required.
“Our game combines the constant upgrading, gradual improvement nature of incrementals, the immediacy of clicker games and the collection and meta-game progression mechanics of RPGs.”
Free-to-play mobile games can be a tricky balance, and some players can feel cheated by micro-transactions. This can happen when paying players are given unfair advantages over non-paying ones or when they have access to more content (such as playable characters).
Albeck describes the Heroes of Havoc model as a “fair free-to-play model”.
“We are doing a lot of things differently to most mobile games. Our game is virtually infinite in content, so we don’t need to slow players down,” he says.
“We have no progression gates, no energy system and no paywalls. Players can play whenever they want, however much they want and they will continue to progress through the campaign, levelling up their characters and collecting better and better loot.
“Every hero in our game can be unlocked by playing the game. Every piece of loot can be found by non-paying players. Any paid-for damage boosts have no effect in PvP [player versus player]. This allows for real balance between spenders and free players.”
Mobile gaming is often said to be a challenger to PC and console gaming. Some surveys estimate that there will be 6.1 billion smartphones in use by 2020.
However, Albeck doesn’t think mobile and home gaming are competitors: “There is no doubt that mobile gaming is continuing to grow very rapidly, but I think that many different forms of gaming can happily co-exist.
“While mobile grows, it’s not like console or PC gaming is shrinking. Although consumers have more devices and more forms of entertainment competing for their time, great games will attract players regardless of the platform they are on.”