Offline Mobile Game Rereleases

I’ve been thinking lately about offline mobile game rereleases.

There’s so many live service games, giant content mines that churn out stuff for years on end to keep people playing and to entice more microtransactions, more ad revenue. But then, inevitably, the time comes when the game stops making money, when microtransactions dry up and server costs are too high. So then the game gets shut down and you’re left with nothing.

But, in this age of massive developer layoffs (nearly 30,000 people since 2022), it seems really silly to just let all these games rot in silence, to let years of hard work (and tons of assets) just sit on hard drives.

So, in recent years, we’ve seen some offline mobile game rereleases as a possible solution. It’s not common at all so far, but I wonder if it’ll increase, just because it takes so much less work to convert a game like this. Maybe even less work than a remaster of an older classic.

Yeah, this is sounding like some cynical industry shill stuff, which I am no stranger to talking about. It’s worth diving into, at least, because it might prepare us for the industry to come.

It seems to me like there’s a few different approaches to offline mobile game rereleases…

One is to just remove microtransactions and focus the game on single-player content. Future-proofing for when those servers do go down someday. It’s hard for a multiplayer-focused game, but the new Chocobo Racing GP did that, and by all accounts it’s a healthy experience these days. It’ll lose tons of capability one day when it loses the internet, but at least you don’t have to deal with the free-to-play grind just to have fun with it.

The very cool card game Faeria did that too; it went from a free-to-play collectible card game to a paid release that has lots of puzzle expansions. Even if the card battling mutliplayer goes down someday, you’ll still have countless hours of fun stuff to play with.

Other indie games are removing microtransactions in that same exact vein. Also because microtransactions are evil.

Another path is to entirely rerelease the game as an offline-only version.

After Megaman X’s mobile game died, it was reborn as a standalone game. One that’s pretty well-liked and lets you enjoy the original game without all that log-in bonus nonsense.

Fans did this with an abandoned Sword Art Online game, and Square Enix did it with Various Daylife–although that one didn’t fare too well in the conversion.

There’s so many candidates for games that could be converted into paid, offline-only rereleases, and I think if we see more of this trend, it’ll be done in the Megaman X Dive vein.

For example, that old Mobius Final Fantasy game I’m sure will get dumped on Switch someday. And, Nintendo would never, ever do this, because it’s Nintendo, but there’s definitely an audience for Dragalia Lost to come back in this way.

I, for one, would love this obscure Snoopy Teaches English game to join the roster of offline mobile game rereleases. It’s just some minigames, cute art, and daily Peanuts comics, all geared towards teaching English. I’m not even sure why it shut down. Maybe just super unpopular? This kind of experience was exactly at home in the DS, 3DS era when you’d pop in some quick game for 15 minutes and play it most days–without that skinner box daily obsession that a live service game tries to manifest. So it’d be a good fit for an offline paid release.

The other much rarer path is to recycle mobile game assets into a new release.

The only example I know of is the Mario Kart Booster Course Pass. They took most of the mobile game tracks and shoved them onto Switch, and it doubled the size of the game in the process. Since it was free to Nintendo shills paying for Nintendo Online, the Nintendo shills cheered hip hip hooray.

It’s rare now, but I think recycling will be much more common in our upcoming age of cost-cutting. At least when it comes to existing franchises! For better or for worse. You’ve got all this beautiful art and music, all this single-player story content, and occasionally even a fun gameplay loop. So why not make a new game that reuses a lot of it?

Many mobile games just wouldn’t work if they got offline mobile game rereleases. The gameplay is too simple, too repetitive, too geared towards playing every day for a year, not playing 20 hours and finishing it. And many multiplayer online games, once they die, can never feasibly be brought back. So recycling the assets and trying to keep the “spirit” alive is the best they can hope for.

This is the route that Nintendo will go, most likely, if it gets into this business. The next Dr. Mario game will make extensive use of that mobile game everyone forgot about. And I have no doubt Fire Emblem Heroes will be cannibalized into some future product when that game eventually bites the dust.

I’m not sure I’m a fan of this from an artistic or aesthetic point of view. Or an ethical one, for artists and developers whose work will get recycled with no royalties to them and potentially no credit either. But it’s kinda par for the course, huh…

Offline Mobile Game Rereleases – Yay or Nay?

I really like the idea, in theory. I generally hate free-to-play mobile games and my proclivity towards addictive behavior means I can’t let myself play most of them. Preserving them in offline form, then, would really increase their accessibility for decades to come. If done right.

However, as quick cash grabs with little effort put into the conversion, just plopping a skinner boxy mobile game onto consoles with no microtransactions… it totally defeats the purpose. And that’s undoubtedly the route most will take.

Is it even worth keeping around the infinite deluge of gacha games and town builders if you have to make major adjustments to make them viable, fun offline releases? In most cases, no not really. But for a select few, offline mobile game rereleases is a pretty nice idea.

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3 thoughts on “Offline Mobile Game Rereleases

  1. The concept of live service games alone scares me off of ever trying one again. (That and the fact that when I was playing Pokemon TCG online, I wasn’t a strategy or combo hound, so I frequently lost.) They’re so temporary that given a few years, we’ll never be able to return to them ever ever again ever. At least this way, the games are theoretically kinda preserved and it won’t take a persistent fan server effort to do it. Still, the temporariness of pretty much all games gives me the willies.

    1. I very much dislike live service games unless they are either simple enough you don’t have to invest extreme time into them, or unless there is some guarantee that the game will definitely be around in 10 years, either due to popularity or some decentralized stuff where fans will be able to take it over later.

      I was extremely upset when Super Mario Bros. 35 died just a few months after release, but that game was pretty simple and never even had any monetization, so I guess it was a free way to temporarily enjoy some time. In contrast though I find myself totally unable to get invested in games I otherwise would have gotten really into, like Autochess type stuff from a few years back, just because every example was some predatory battle pass loot box thing that got sunsetted after 3 years.0

      Magic the Gathering Arena and its awful monetization anger me a lot, but it’s the quickest and most streamlined way to play it online so unfortunately I will continue. I can’t possibly imagine it not being around in 2034, anyway. Its counterpart Magic the Gathering Online has outright legal ownership of digital assets, which is very nice, although it technically doesn’t guarantee they won’t shut it down someday…

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