Nexon and DevCat have released the second official trailer for Mabinogi Mobile, and the game is looking more and more like the most interesting massively multiplayer role-playing game (MMORPG) to come to mobile devices. There have been a lot of MMORPGs, or games that claimed to be MMORPGs, released on Android & iOS in the past, and virtually all of them have disappointed (though there are exceptions). There are too many games out there that feel nearly identical, and their online components often feel like they’re there just so that a game can call itself an MMO. With that in mind, it’s natural to be skeptical about Mabinogi Mobile, but there are also a lot of reasons to get excited.
Mabinogi is not your average MMORPG
Mabinogi was originally released on PC in June of 2004. To put that into perspective, that’s several months before the game that would become the biggest game in the genre, World of Warcraft, came out. That was also before western MMORPG developers began focusing on making games that resemble World of Warcraft, and before many Korean developers began making free to play MMORPGs that are heavy on repetition and grinding. Mabinogi cameo out just before a major shift in the MMORPG market both in the West and the in the East, and that led to it being a fairly unique game.
Mabinogi was a game designed to be different from the very beginning. While other games focused on combat, Mabinogi always had an eye towards becoming a more social game with stuff to do even if combat wasn’t your priority. Players in Mabinogi could develop skills, craft different items, trade, and gather materials. There were social elements baked into the game with in game camp fires giving players buffs, weddings, and even homesteads. That helped create incentives to play the game that went beyond wanting to get the next gear upgrade or level. Given that after more than 13 years the game is still up and running, it seems like that direction was appreciated. That puts it in start contrast to most mobile MMORPGs, like the recently released Lineage 2: Revolution, that focus almost exclusively on combat and contain an auto-mode that allows players to just watch the game.
One of the biggest issues with modern mobile MMORPGs and RPGs is monetization. There are many games out there that have focused on how to squeeze the most out of each user while ignoring basic things like fun and good content. That has led to games with a veneer depth and gameplay pasted on top of the same basic mechanics and shallow gameplay. Mabinogi was, and still is, a game that leaned quite heavily into pay to win territory, but it does so while still being a compelling game for free users. It will be interesting to see how Mabinogi Mobile approaches monetization.
Can Mabinogi Mobile succeed where others have failed?
One can hope. Even based on the brief glimpses shown in the trailer, it appears that DevCat Studio is focused on making something that does more than what mobile MMOs are currently doing. The trailers two minutes, some of which just showed running, showed off a lot if you know what to look for. It appears that the game will indeed feature crafting and trade skills based on the character’s gathering wool, wood, and fishing. It also showed off characters with pets, parties teaming up in dungeons, and even a group working on chopping down a large tree. The game also appears to let players create campfires which, at least in the PC version, give users bonuses when they’re near, leading to an increase in social interactions. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the trailer is character variety. Characters are easy to tell apart from a mile away thanks to different ages, vibrant hair colors, clothing, and gear.
It’s clear that this is a game that has all the potential to be one of the best multiplayer mobile games around. Its success will be determined, at least partially, by the direction that Nexon and DevCat decide to go in. The quality of Nexon’s mobile games has been quite inconsistent, with excellent games like Fantasy War Tactics R, and more underwhelming titles like HIT and Unknown Heroes. A restrictive stamina system (or similar mechanics) could end up harming the game’s social aspects. On the other hand, monetization that doesn’t generate sufficient revenue would likely lower the number of updates the game will receive. Having a ton of content at launch could lead to a gargantuan file size like the massive 8GB that Final Fantasy XV: Pocked Edition‘s HD version is expected to require, thus limiting the number of users who will want to take a chance on the game. However a lack of content, or overly repetitive content, will lead to players moving on from the game shortly after giving it a try. This will be a delicate balancing act. While caution is warranted when looking at any new mobile game, Mabinogi Mobile has the potential to become a fantastic MMORPG, and that’s something worth getting excited about.
When will Mabinogi Mobile come out?
Mabinogi Mobile should be out in Korea sometime in 2018, though it does not have a firm release date. The game has not been announced for any other regions at this time. Given that many Nexon games are available worldwide, including the PC version of Mabinogi and the mobile card game Mabinogi Duels, there is a good chance that the game will be released outside of Korea in the future.