Smilegate’s newly released game Magical Atelier (Smilegate)
Just like how the idea of magic rails against common knowledge, Magical Atelier appears to defy the odds, being an unconventional game that transgresses the basic laws of typical Korean mobile games.
For busy commuters, mobile games are supposed to be simple and easy to play. Also, they must include elements that can trigger competition among as many users as possible to guarantee profitability.
Magical Atelier, developed by Smilegate, meets neither of the two criteria.
Released in South Korea on Nov. 17, Magical Atelier revolves around the story of a young girl who just graduated from a magic academy in medieval times. Pounded by work, she questions the meaning of life, asking herself, “Is this the life I wanted”?
Main character featured in the trailer of Magical Atelier (Captured from YouTube)
After days of working late in the office, she receives a letter from her mother, who asks her daughter to look after the family’s magic item shop. Without hesitation, the carefree magician packs up and heads back to her hometown, Serentis.
Users’ mission is to help the magician manage her family magic store successfully. Like a role-playing game, users take the character outside of the town to farm, or collect ingredients to conjure up magical items and sell them to local residents. The more journeys she takes, the greater magician she becomes.
To help the farming missions feel less repetitive, the game offers quests that allow users to follow a storyline and feel attached to the magician. The main character must be female.
During the quests, the magician keeps engaging with unrealistically handsome, chic male characters reminiscent of those featured in Japanese comic books.
Non-playable male characters inside Magical Atelier. (Captured from YouTube)
The main source of income of this game comes from customization options. By allowing users to decorate the interior of their shops, Magical Atelier monetized on almost every element it can possibly think of, offering different choices of carpets, lighting, broomsticks, ink, wallpapers, cookies, work lamps, slippers and so on. The list goes endless.
Magical Atelier also offers customization options for the heroine. Users can splurge money and buy different types of hairstyle, dresses, umbrellas and even freckles to go with the avatar.
Simply put, Magical Atelier is a digital slot machine and a mishmash of two different genres -- farming games and RPGs.
However, for Korean mobile game users accustomed to autoplay modes, Magical Atelier might feel too high-maintenance. Unlike a typical farming game in which users make investments and reap rewards few hours later, magic items are forged in just a few minutes, requiring a constant attention.
Magical Atelier’s weakest spot may be that it only supports a single-player campaign, meaning that the users can’t actually interact with other users inside the game in real-time.
An avatar wearing traditional Korean dress Hanbok stands inside her pink atelier. (Captured from Magical Atelier online community)
As users can’t check out how other players decorate their shops and avatars in real-time, Magical Atelier loses out on countless opportunities to expose its items directly to the masses, who are potential customers. Alone in the game, users may be less motivated to adorn their shops and avatars, as there is no one watching. Imagine a fashion show without any spectators.
Though launched on Nov. 17, only 32 users have uploaded screenshots of their avatars on the official community of Magical Atelier as of Nov. 25.
It remains to be seen whether the hardcore hybrid game will turn out be profitable despite its unorthodox approach to marketing. On the Apple App Store in Korea, the game ranked as the 29th most profitable game by revenue on Nov. 18 but plunged to 52nd as of Nov. 25, according to market research firm Mobile Index.
On Google Play Store, however, Magical Atelier is on a steady rise, from the 152nd place on Nov. 20 to the 80th on Nov. 30 by revenue.
But Magical Atelier’s popularity is undeniable, as it ranked as the No.1 and No.3 most popular free-to-play game on Google Play Store and Apple App Store, respectively, as of Nov. 30.
Smilegate is planning for the global launch of Magical Atelier, though the exact date hasn’t been decided yet.
By Kim Byung-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Time to Play is a review of new game releases. Kim Byung-wook is a staff reporter at The Korea Herald and a hardcore Fifa Online 4 user with 456 friendly match wins. He has also played StarCraft 2 Zerg and once ranked diamond. He is currently a captain in the first-person shooter game Sudden Attack and the owner of a level 184 Soul Master in role-playing game MapleStory. Kim still plays Football Manager 2017. -- Ed.