The Chinese mobile role-playing game I am MT2 has been downloaded more than 70 million times. Now Firefly Games has redesigned it for the U.S. market and will launch it in the West under the name Rush of Heroes.
The move is part of a plan to identify another billion-dollar opportunity in mobile games, which is expected to be a $30 billion market in 2015. Michael Zhang, the chief executive of Firefly Games in Los Angeles, said in an email that I am MT2 has a lot going for it in Asia, and now the big test is whether this content will be big in the U.S.
I am MT2, which is based on a hit animated show in China, has been generating $1.5 million a day in Asia alone. It has become the No. 1 free-to-play mobile game in Taiwan and South Korea, and it is a top-10 grossing title in those regions. The Chinese game launched in December 2014 on iOS and Android. In just 11 hours on the market, it became the No. 1 paid game on the App Store in China. It became the No. 1 top-grossing game in less than 34 hours.
Nexon published I am MT2 in South Korea, while Funplus brought it to Taiwan. Tencent published the game in China. Firefly has the right to publish the game worldwide in English.
Rush of Heroes has 3D graphics, where the camera can rotate 180 degrees, and it has interactive boss battles. The player can acquire combinations of powerful heroes and recruit support troops. It also features guild and kingdom building, which helps unlock new strengths and abilities. It has a bunch of side games, including an endless-runner minigame, and activities such as fishing, mining, maze-running, dungeons, and guild-raiding.
Zhang also said it has a sense of humor. It takes a satirical approach to traditionally serious RPGs.
"We believe this will help appeal to a wider audience and builds a deeper connection with the user because they can relate to their frustrations in most massively multiplayer online role-playing games," Zhang said.
But it faces a lot of competition. And it isn't easy to make Chinese mobile games appeal Western audiences.
"Our unique approach for Rush of Heroes is working with voice-over actors, comedians for converting the humor, and creative agencies to help us westernize our artwork," Zhang said.
Earlier this spring, Firefly Games raised $8 million to bring top-grossing mobile games from Asia to the West. Chinese investment firms Skyocean International Holdings, Ceyuan Ventures, and GuangZhou WinHi led the first round of funding.
Firefly said it plans to release four games this year, and it has partnered with top Asian mobile game developers to distribute top-grossing Asian hits to the Western markets. Firefly hopes it will create bigger successes by combining the best of the East and West, such as innovative game design, proven Western event systems (tournaments), and triple-A content.
Firefly Games has about 30 employees in Los Angeles and its Shanghai office.
Zhang was formerly CEO of mobile game publisher ZQGame US, while cofounder KJ Lin was vice president of operations there. They both left last October.
Rivals include all of the big Western game publishers like Zynga and Machine Zone. But companies that take Eastern style games and publish them in the West include Com2Us, Ucool, and Kabam.