Top News

#1: HoYoverse’s Honkai: Star Rail Has a Record-Breaking Launch

Source: Game Developer

Honkai: Star Rail, HoYoverse’s brand new title, has just been released globally on April 26th. The game, which was announced at the end of 2021, went through several closed beta rounds in the beginning of the year and the recent launch finally adds another RPG title to HoYoverse’s portfolio. 

Given the success of Genshin Impact, Honkai: Star Rail was understandably one of the most anticipated games of 2023. The excitement has already translated into an almost record-high number of downloads — in just one day, Honkai: Star Rail amassed more than 20 million downloads — and came very close to the launch of Pokémon Go. At $16.9 million in one day, the game also enjoyed more than double the revenue of Genshin Impact’s then-record launch ($7.7 million) back in 2020. 


Considering the current challenge of increasing downloads, especially in higher CPI genres like RPG, this is excellent news for HoYoverse.

Honkai: Star Rail presents a departure from the gameplay found in HoYoverse's previous titles, Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact 3rd. While these games focus on action-packed gameplay, Honkai: Star Rail offers a turn-based battle system reminiscent of games like Raid or Fate Grand Order. As with other HoYoverse games, players can obtain characters through a gacha-based system.

Source: HoYoverse

The game employs a linear progression and narrative, sharing some common elements with the Honkai Impact 3rd storyline, such as a few characters that appear in both games. Unlike Genshin Impact, Honkai: Star Rail does not feature an open-world exploration system. Instead, it adopts the exploration limitations of narrative-driven games, where players can explore the confined environment around them and interact with characters and objects. 

Source: HoYoverse

While Honkai: Star Rail's exploration mechanics are more interactive than those found in Honkai Impact 3d, they do not quite reach the level of Genshin Impact's open world experience. Nevertheless, the game manages to retain the mesmerizing graphics, animations, and soundtrack present in Genshin Impact, boasting a high level of polish and an emotional soundtrack that contribute to its top-quality status.

HoYoverse’s Strategy 

HoYoverse's strategy with Honkai: Star Rail is intriguing, particularly the decision to create a turn-based RPG. While turn-based titles are a common staple of the game industry, this is HoYoverse's first foray into the subgenre. Given the company's mastery of action RPGs and the current decline in the team-battle subgenre, the choice of turn-based gameplay raises some questions on what HoYoverse’s motivations are. 

The combination of gacha mechanics and team-battle RPGs, which are predominantly turn-based, is a proven recipe for monetization, due to the emphasis on character collection in gameplay. This factor could be partly behind HoYoverse's decision to adopt turn-based gameplay. Additionally, while there will be some overlap with fans of Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact 3rd, the turn-based RPG gameplay might reduce potential cannibalization of both games, particularly Genshin Impact, while also appealing to a different audience.

However, as seen in our previous RPG genre breakdown, team battle games have faced a significant decline in revenue in the past year. This downturn may make user acquisition more challenging for Honkai: Star Rail following its initial downloads boom.

The decision to scale back from open world exploration also might seem unusual for a company known for pushing boundaries and innovating in the market. One of our main pieces of feedback on Genshin Impact from Naavik’s deep dive and deconstruction of the game was that the combination of linear progression mechanics from Honkai Impact 3rd with Genshin Impact's open world made exploration feel less meaningful to the player experiences. The linear progression mechanics were not well-suited for the open world environment, which made the game repetitive and monotonous over time.

Could the initial problems Genshin Impact faced in making the open world experience more relevant, coupled with the costs of building and optimizing that world for mobile devices, be factors behind HoYoverse's choice to scale down the open world exploration option, at least for now? Alternatively, the choice of a different gameplay mechanic coupled with linear progression could be down to HoYoverse's desire to diversify its portfolio and cater to different types of players.

All in all, Honkai: Star Rail may not showcase the same groundbreaking innovation as previous HoYoverse titles. However, it is a well-executed and polished game that takes learnings from what worked in HoYoverse's previous franchises and combines them with core gameplay designed for high monetization.

Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see if the strategic choices made by HoYoverse with Honkai: Star Rail will lead to sustained success in the long term. The game's initial reception is promising, but it will be interesting to see how the game evolves over time and whether it can maintain a dedicated player base in the face of the declining popularity of the team-battle subgenre.

Game Launch Radar

#1: Metal Slug: Awakening 

Source: Crunchyroll
  • Publisher: Tencent 
  • State: Soft Launch 
  • Territories: China 
  • Classification: Arcade — Platformer
  • Quick thoughts:
    • Metal Slug: Awakening, a new run & gun platformer developed by Tencent's TiMi Studios, adapts the iconic series’ theme, characters, and gameplay for mobile free-to-play for the first time.
      • As with other games in the genre, this game features 2D side-scrolling, though the art style conveys depth in object forms. Players control a single character, running and shooting enemies to clear levels, utilizing standard side-scrolling shooting controls. You can watch a video of the gameplay here
      • In addition to collecting weapons and equipment like in the original game, players can now unlock various characters with unique special powers and customization options, adapting the game for a free-to-play economy. 
      • While the original gameplay is central to the franchise, players typically don't form strong emotional connections with the characters, which — combined with a lack of PVP features — might make character and customization collection less popular among players.
      • Metal Slug: Awakening is highly polished and Tencent managed to improve graphics and animations while maintaining the casual and comical feel of the original game.
    • Although not the first IP mobile free-to-play game from the franchise, it is the first to retain the original gameplay, unlike previous attempts with Metal Slug Defense and Metal Slug Attack, both tower defense games.
    • TiMi has prior experience developing games in the subgenre, having created Contra: Return, which shares many similarities with Metal Slug: Awakening. This previous knowledge and technology likely contributed to Metal Slug: Awakening's development, making it a strategic decision for TiMi.

#2: Hungry Shark Primal 

Source: Ubisoft
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • State: Soft Launch 
  • Territories: Philippines 
  • Classification:  Arcade
  • Quick thoughts:
    • Hungry Shark Primal is Ubisoft's newest entry in the Hungry Shark franchise.
      • Similar to previous titles, players choose from several different sharks to control. The gameplay is quite casual and bears a resemblance to infinite runner games. Players aim to collect as many points as possible by eating fish, humans, birds, and special objects while evading larger predators and ensuring the hunger meter doesn't deplete. You can watch a video of the gameplay here
      • Since the gameplay is casual, the game relies on other progression aspects to keep it fresh and engaging. The most basic aspect is unlocking new maps for players to explore, but it also features missions and a trophy road where players can unlock various prizes and collectibles.
      • Additionally, players can upgrade their sharks and equip items to enhance their performance. They can also unlock new sharks as they progress through the game.
      • Overall, despite the more polished UI and graphics, the game feels quite similar to other games in the franchise. However, it is still in its early stages, and the UI changes hint at the possibility of new features and events being introduced in the future.
      • The decision to launch a new title might have been influenced by how cumbersome previous titles were and the difficulties in adding new content. Furthermore, Ubisoft may have been seeking a small viral boost to the franchise with a fresh new title.

Other Game Announcements

  • Apex Legends Mobile goes offline today after earning EA around $36m  (Link)
  • Niantic partner with Kung Fu Tea to keep Pokémon Go players refreshed (Link)
  • Stumble Guys goes FPS in latest update (Link)
  • Dead by Daylight Mobile announces Nights of Terror tournament (Link)
  • Identity V prepares for the finals of the Call of The Abyss VI tournament (Link)
  • NetEase brings player content-creation tools to LifeAfter (Link)
  • Cookie Run: Kingdom from Devsisters is now open for pre-registrations in China (Link)
  • Last Fortress celebrates its first anniversary featuring new events and rewards (Link)
  • PUBG Mobile launches new online portal, ESPORTS HUB for tournament licensing (Link)
  • BILIBILI’s Anime RPG Eternal Tree will shut down on June 29, 2023 (Link)
  • Farlight 84 gets a global launch on Android, iOS, and PC after almost two years in beta (Link)

Company Announcements

  • Sega and Rovio bosses to double down on IP building across platforms and transmedia (Link)
  • Netflix Games Studios looking to expand with new hires (Link
  • Activision Blizzard Q1 2023 financials show another record quarter for King (Link
  • Zynga appoints Akshay Bharadwaj as head of Socialpoint studio (Link)
  • NetEase reported $13.991 billion in revenue in 2022, but there may be trouble ahead (Link)
  • Activision Blizzard revenues jump 35% as everything clicks (Link
  • MyGames forms Premium Games Division to expand beyond free-to-play (Link

Ecosystem Announcements

  • App review is still broken, and developers are angry: “Apple sees itself as above the law” (Link)
  • The UK’s markets regulator has blocked the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard deal (Link)
  • Apple emerges victorious in antitrust appeal against Epic Games (Link)
  • Snapdragon Pro Series partners with Activision to bring Call of Duty: Mobile to Mobile Masters (Link)
  • Angry Birds lands in cars in collab with Mercedes-Benz (Link)
  • Azerion celebrates 452.6 million Euros in revenue in 2022 (Link)
  • SuperAwesome and Yoti announce new partnership (Link)
  • Poncle's Vampire Survivors is getting an animated series (Link)

Content Worth Consuming

Source: Game Refinery
  • The Mobile Games Moving Away From Gacha (GameRefinery): “That’s why it was such a surprise when Brawl Stars and Mario Kart: World Tour removed gacha mechanics in recent updates and to see Marvel Snap neglect the mechanic entirely in favor of other monetization methods. With this starting to look like a broader trend, more mobile games are likely to follow, but the question remains: why now? Below we take a deeper dive into the challenges facing gachas across the industry and look at the mobile games that have since adopted a new monetization strategy.” (Link)
  • Gameplay Video Ads for Marketing Games: Tips & Tricks (Udonis): “ When done right, gameplay video ads have the power to convince people to download or buy a game. Plus, they’re fairly easy and cheap to make. However, it’s not enough to merely capture some random gameplay footage and call it a day. There’s a lot more that goes into it. Here are the most useful tips that will help game developers, marketers, video editors, and capture artists make better gameplay video ads.”(Link)
  • Session #61 – Legend of Slime review (Two & a Half Gamers Podcast): “This is no BS gaming podcast two and a half gamers. A safe space for all of us & you as well. Bringing you the feel of a „4am conference“ discussion about the gaming industry. Fun, latest news, but also education. Let’s dive in!” (Link)
  • What's next for hypercasual marketing in 2023? ( “ Selchuk covers the changes we’ve seen after the height of Covid and how companies can look toward long term optimisation for their marketing in a time where changes in privacy regulations are shaking up the mobile market. While some feel these changes may spell the end for hypercasual, Selchuk has plans to adapt to these changes rather than fear them…“ (Link)
  • Four Tips for Finding and Engaging Mobile Players in the US (Google Play Team): “As one of the world’s biggest games markets, the US represents a significant opportunity for your mobile games business to grow its player base. In this post, we look at 4 tips that could help your mobile game enter and grow in the US market.” (Link)

A big thanks to Fernanda Gonzalez for writing this update! If Naavik can be of help as you build or fund games, please reach out.

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