At Games in Asia, we believe in supporting the gaming ecosystem. We have a soft spot especially for indie developers, and if an indie game isn’t up to scratch, we usually choose not to feature it rather than beat it down.
Yesterday, though, I found out that Asiasoft signed a game called Minox SEA, formerly just called Minox. It was being promoted via posters pinned up in a Comics Connection store in Singapore, and boasted the use of @cash for its microtransactions. It is also published on Google Play under Asiasoft’s Playpark brand.
Minox SEA is Asiasoft’s first English-language mobile offering and the first Southeast Asia-developed game on its mobile portfolio; the game was developed by a Singapore-based developer. But after waiting in anticipation of what Asiasoft would offer by way of mobile games, Minox SEA is hardly what I was expecting from the reputable industry giant.
Minox SEA is a mash-up of Pokemon and Maplestory, and allows players to wander through a platform-based world and do battle with pets. These pets can also be captured, and players can fight in larger tournaments to try to be the very best. It sounds like a decent enough game, but it’s not.
There is no way to be kind: Minox SEA is an embarrassingly bad game with on-screen buttons, a horrendous UI, and visuals worse than what I see when I visit schools offering gaming diplomas. I first tried it at a local gaming expo last year and I was simultaneously horrified and terrified, and couldn’t run away from the person demonstrating it to me quickly enough. I have no idea why Asiasoft decided it should be their first pick for mobile games, or why it even got signed.
When asked why Asiasoft chose to sign that monstrosity over all the other brilliant mobile games in the region, Gerry Ung, regional director of Asiasoft’s mobile division, said via a PR representative that Minox SEA’s gameplay model is very similar to the MMORPGs Asiasoft is well known for, and went on to feed me a huge spoonful of marketing on what Minox SEA was all about. He rounded up the email by saying that the development studio, Ubergamers, is “one of Asiasoft’s many valuable mobile development partners.”
While Ung did say that interested mobile developers can contact Asiasoft’s mobile team here, the fact that Asiasoft considers a studio like Ubergamers to be a “valuable” partner, and that it thinks a PC MMORPG game can be transplanted into mobile, doesn’t bode well for the industry.
I have checked out the other Minox games developed by Ubergamers. They look bad. The studio doesn’t even bother to make sure the graphics are of the right resolution. Art is pixelated, concepts look like I could have done them. Everything. Looks. Bad. And while there are mobile MMORPGs, these are developed with the mobile gaming meta in mind; they don’t simply rip off Maplestory. As a Singaporean, it’s embarrassing that Minox SEA is a Singapore-made game. As an industry professional, it’s disappointing.
Asiasoft’s first mobile title, Ragnarok Mobile TH, was a great success in Thailand, topping the country’s app charts and making a statement. Asiasoft-published MMORPGs are always sound and fun choices, and I know the company is good at building a community, running game operations, and generally for listening to its audience as well. That Asiasoft should pick up on a game that is worse than anything a tertiary level game development student can create is just baffling, and makes me wonder if the mobile team has changed, or if Ragnarok Mobile TH was just a fluke given its already-strong Ragnarok Online fanbase.
There is absolutely no blame to lay on the development studio; a studio can spend its money how it wishes, and make the games it wants. But publishers, especially publishers as reputable as Asiasoft, need to at least do their homework before giving a much coveted publishing deal to a game as horrible as Minox SEA.
It isn’t just giving unfair chances to the undeserving; in signing Minox SEA, Asiasoft has also given each and every game development studio in the region—many with games much better than Minox SEA— a slap in the face, because it is basically saying Minox SEA is better than everything else out there.
Asiasoft has a steady reputation built with care from the ground up, but if it keeps up with antics like these, I can’t say if it will keep its credibility for long. Until its different country offices start to learn from each other, and its international mobile gaming team starts playing real games, the company is probably better off staying away from that particular market, lest it stumble into yet another POS like Minox SEA. (Decipher that acronym how you will!)