Fire Emblem Heroes has been delivered since Feb 2 and has gotten great success especially in Japan and the United States. The latest mobile game Nintendo released was ranked 3th in Japan’s iOS grossing ranking and 8th in American iOS grossing ranking. The game earned 2.9M$ on the first day. The game has kept being ranked Top3 beyond mixi’s Monster Strike and Sony’s Fate / Grand Order.

Fire Emblem Heroes was ranked 2th

The spectacular success in Japan is because the timing when it was released was also good. Japanese mobile publishers tend to be heavily earn with greedily events and Gacha at the year-end and New Year holidays. And so they tend to weaken their greedy plan at the beginning of February. For many core gamers who are playing other smartphone RPGs, FEH was a worthwhile game title to spend a bit of time spent.

Mobile RPG gamers who are always playing Fate / Grand Order, Final Fantasy Record Keeper, Colopul Rune Story, Granblue Fantasy, Shadowverse, etc, which can be confirmed with my timeline, started playing FEH almost simultaneously! And of course, Nintendo fans jumped into this game!

Okay, let me explain the analysis of design and monetization of Fire Emblem Heroes.

Game Play and User’s Reactions

This game has downsizeed SRPG ‘s strategic battle into a 4vs4 skirmish in only single screen (later, enemies will increase over four). In traditional SRPG you should move your unit closer to a side of enemies and select an enemy to attack, but in this game you only simply sliding your unit on an enemy, it performs move and attack. The story demo before and after battle is very short, but you can see many characters of the series in the game.

The simple battle field in the game.

Watching many reactions of users, FE ‘s enthusiastic fans are slightly disappointed in the gameplay and quality of the mobile ver, which is much simpler than the console ver. The flow of the tutorial is too simple to understand, the UI is sloppy, the story is thin, the depiction of the character is coarse and the strategy of battle is also low, and so on.

On the other hand, when viewed as a mobile game, It is easy to play in a little break time. Due to the reduction number of units join battle and the shrinking of the map, the battle quickly proceeded and it realized the brief battle of 3 minutes instead of a battle that took 30 minutes.

Of couse, you you can enjoy collect and raise many characters of the FE series.

Analysis of Gacha Monetization

You can summon heroes from past series using orbs (you purchase them with real money or proceed chapters in story maps to get an orb as a reward) . This is so-called Gacha.

A hero appears fascinatingly in a Gacha sequence.

Nintendo and DeNA are doing some ingenuity on Gacha.

  •  Select the attributes (red, blue, gree, non-color) from 5 choices on magic circle and roll a Gacha
  •  The appearing rate of five-stars units gradually increases upto appearance of that
  •  The price per Gacha gradually declines (5 orbs/ 4 / 4 / 4 / 3)

As mentioned above, it is obviously better to consume 20 orbs in total and turn it 5 times.

Select the attribute from 5 choices on magic circle and roll a Gacha

It is obviously better to consume 20 orbs in total and roll Gacha five times. In fact, according to the orb’s sales ranking on iTunes, “23  orbs” is ranked 2th. you confirm that this monetization strategy has a success.

orbs’s sales ranking on iTunes

And one more thing, I guess that there are mainly two types of  paying users, an OVER PAYING gamer accustomed to Gacha at other smartphone RPGs and a light-paying gamer considering 5 consecutive Gacha as better. The latter maybe Nintendo freak who has never paid money to Gacha before.

Battle System and Growth Pressure

Unlike in the past series, there is no evasion in the game. No element related to luck, prediction is easier and the game is closer to a chess game. Spd (Speed) isn’t related to evasion. If your unit’s speed is more than 5 of your opponent, then your hero will attack twice against the opponent.

キャラクターステータス_s.jpgAtk: physical attack power
Spd: if unit’s speed is 5 of more than enemy, it can attack enemy twice
Def: physical defence power against opponent’s physical attack
Res: resistance power against opponent’s magic attack

Following the tradition of the FE series, the damage calculation is simple. The damage of physical attack is the value which subtracted his defense force (Def) from the enemy’s attack (Atk). Magical Attack Damage is the value of your enemy’s attack power (Atk) minus your resistance (Res).

In other words, if your ATK is low, or the enemy’s DEF (or RES) is high, the damage given can be zero.

Floria’s Atk is 21 and Opponent’s Def is 17, and so Damage is 4 (=21 – 17)
Tharja’s Atk is 27 and Opponent’s Res is 17, and so Damage is 10 (=27 – 17)

Such addition and subtraction formulas are common in console RPG which developers can easily assume character growth curves in. When the player’s fighting power deviates even slightly from the assumption of the developer, the difficulty rises sharply.

That formula is unusual in smartphone RPG, because each player gets characters from Gacha and their parameters varies. For smartphone RPG, the calculation formula based on the reduction rate such as damage = (100 – def) * attack  is more general.

As mentioned above, the unit’s Atk, Def (or Res) are very important, so players are more likely to feel the necessity for unit growth than other mobile RPGs. The strong emotion should be called as “Growth Pressure”.

Also, Exp (experience values) are not equally distributed to all teams who participated in the battle, and only attacking unit gains Exp. Then, if the unit dies, Exp it earned in that battle will be zero. Even if the unit attacks a lower-level enemy than the unit, gained Exp is lower. There is no easy way to earn Exp safely and efficiently in the battle . All players have to face always a trade-off between risk and return in the process of growing a hero.

In other ways, you can “Level Up” your unit, consuming shards. But accumulating shards needs much time and the many battles in Training Tower. In this way, the growth pressure of this game is very strong.

Perhaps designers followed only the tradition of the series, but it produces a strong motivation to strengthen the units. Normally, if the game is not Fire Emblem,  mobile gamers might feel unreasonable and unconfortable with the difficulty of the battle system, but the FE fans agree all of them.

Growth Pressure Produces Gacha Pressure

Therefore, it also makes players feel strongly that high-rarity units with high parameters are necessary. That is, players get more and more desire to roll Gacha. In this game strong growth pressure produces strong Gacha pressure.

There is another way to get a high-rarity unit. Players can “Unlock Potential”, consuming Hero Feathers and Badges (Great Badges) to raise up the unit’s rarity and strengthen the unit’s parameters.

“Unlock Potential” to raise a hero’s rarity

Is not it necessary to roll a Gacha?

No, that’s not simple. Nintendo and DeNA built a clever design.

To get feathers, players should win the other player’s team in Arena. If you want to get a large number of feathers efficiently, you need to win successively with minimizing the losts of the 4 units team. To get badges, you should beat battles in Training Tower.

To get feathers, go to Arena. To get Badges, go to Training Tower.

It takes much time. Players who pursue efficiency want a stronger team. In other words, players will eventually desire a high rarity hero by rolling a Gacha.

It takes much time. Players who pursue efficiency want a stronger team. In other words, players will eventually desire a high rarity hero by rolling a Gacha. Even if you have a will to avoid Gacha, eventually you will want to roll a Gacha someday.

Conclusion and Common Strategy

Finally, I have one more point. Nintendo’s mobile games like Miitomo, Super Mario Run, and Fire Emblem Heroes have common strategy.

  1. Provide experiences similar to console ver gaming experience even if it is on mobile game.
  2. Nevertheless, make distinguished differences between mobile ver and console ver.
  3. Easy to play with one hand Simply and Shortly.

Nintendo doesn’t intend to stop selling consoles and places great importance on extending sales of console ver software.

Thank you for reading so far. I hope this article gives you valuable insights. Ask me in the comments If you have questions about this article.

The all screenshots are taken while I play the game.