You could call Dragalia Lost Nintendo's outlier. It is, to all intents and purposes, a pretty expensive shot in the dark. It's got all of Nintendo's polish and shimmer, but unlike the other big N games we've seen coming to the App Store, this one isn't backed up with a massive license.

The game has already been successful in the territories it's been out in, raking in some massive numbers that Nintendo must be pretty pleased with. And that poses some pretty dramatic questions about the future of Nintendo's mobile business.

The bigger the company, the more it needs to fret about a game making bank - there are loads of people to pay, and material success is going to be way more important than critical praise. Nintendo has often managed to blend both of those things together, but the mobile gaming landscape is very different to the home console one, and Dragalia Lost could well be the a marker as to where Nintendo is going to be heading. In what way? Well, in quite a few.

There's no Mario

Mario is Nintendo's go-to guy. New console? Mario game. The same was true with the shift to mobile - Super Mario Run was the second Nintendo game to land on the App Store, and while it was entertaining, there were rumbles that it didn't do as well as Nintendo hoped it would.

There's good reason for that - Mario games are system sellers, but this one came out on a system that doesn't even need gaming to succeed. With so much more choice, and so much less control for Nintendo, it's not that much of a surprise that their icon didn't live up to expectations.

So what does Nintendo do when Mario doesn't quite work out? In earlier days it leant back on its other flagpole franchises, but again that's not so simple on mobile. Dragalia Lost is an antidote to that - a Nintendo game with all the sparkle you'd expect, but none of the baggage from a long series. And, it's developed out of house.

It's heavily free to play

It's fair to say that Nintendo's most successful games have followed the traditional free to play route - Fire Emblem Heroes and Dragalia Lost are both free to play, as is Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. While Super Mario Run tried a different tack with a single IAP to unlock the game, these are decidedly different.

Dragalia Lost has an energy system, it has a gacha mechanic, it has multiple currencies and more menus than you can shake a stick at. Anyone who's played a midcore RPG on their phone before is going to feel instantly at home here. And the fact is, more people are going to be familiar with playing something like this on their phone than they are a standard platformer.

Free to play games are designed to release little blasts of pleasure, pushing you through the grind with treats when you need them and difficulty spikes when it needs you to spend. In Dragalia Lost it's built into a template that mobile players, especially in non-Western markets, are instantly going to understand.

Less backlash

Look at it this way - a lot of traditional gamers don't like to play on their mobiles. For whatever reason they think that mobile play diminishes the gaming experience. We know they're wrong, but we also know their not particularly likely to change their minds. So while more people might know who Mario is, there's also more people who are going to be upset when they spot the famous plumber on iTunes.

In other words, Dragalia Lost gives Nintendo a clean break to experiment with how its mobile gaming business is going to look. No one's going to shout too loudly about a new franchise developed out of house - Nintendo is testing the water and trying to see what sticks, and it's not willing to chuck its famous faces under the bus again.

Nintendo has the skill and the resources to take its time breaking into mobile. While its first spurt of games had famous faces to back them up, expect to see more games like Dragalia Lost in the coming months, as the big N tries to feel its way into the market without risking the reputations of its biggest stars.

Posted in: News, Opinion, Editor's Corner
Tagged With: Nintendo, dragalia lost
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