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[Time to Play] StoneAge World, Netmarble’s profitable game

(Netmarble)
(Netmarble)

Hollywood loves sequels because they guarantee success. In this sense, when South Korean game publisher Netmarble said it would launch a mobile version of StoneAge, expectations were running high.

StoneAge was a popular PC game that was serviced between 2003 and 2015 in Korea where users could collect and tame dinosaur pets.

However, not all sequels succeed, as witnessed by X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Men in Black: International. Unfortunately, StoneAge World is one of them.

More often than not, the success of a mobile game is measured by how well it implants the fun gaming experience of the original PC game. By that standard, it’s difficult to say StoneAge World delivered.

Right after its release on June 18, StoneAge World faced immediate criticism from users for introducing “vitality” points.

Previously in the original PC game version, users could hunt down dinosaurs unlimited times and tame them as pets, the sort of adventure old-time users were expecting. To collect dinosaur pets with higher growth rate and grade, all users had to do was invest more time and energy, the process of which made the game all the more challenging, worthwhile, and above all, fun. 

Selecting a dinosaur to catch (StoneAge World Screenshot)
Selecting a dinosaur to catch (StoneAge World Screenshot)

However, in the mobile version StoneAge World, users need vitality points to capture dinosaurs. When users find a dinosaur they want to catch, they must first spend three vitality points just to stand one-on-one with the dinosaur.

During the standoff, users have a higher chance of catching a dinosaur when its health is lower. To increase their chances, users can either hit the dinosaur with a fist or a stone. Though hitting it with a fist is free, throwing a stone costs one vitality point. When a dinosaur tries to run away, a fence can be installed, which costs two more vitality points.

Installing a fence by spending two vitality points (StoneAge World Screenshot)
Installing a fence by spending two vitality points (StoneAge World Screenshot)

Simply put, while one needed to spend money to upgrade their game in the past, one now needs to pay up to play the game at all.

StoneAge World offers limited channels for users to earn vitality points: spend real money and buy vitality points; or shore up some 50 vitality points by finishing daily tasks inside the game and secure extra points by completing quests and participating in limited time events.

Users who don’t want to spend cash on vitality points -- which can be purchased at 100 won ($0.08) per unit -- have to wait for the next day to harvest new vitality points.

If Netmarble sees the success of a game by how much profit it makes, it couldn’t have done a better job, by monetizing on the most fun element of the game.

As the title suggests, StoneAge World revolves around a narrative that cavemen protect their land from the threat of an advanced machine civilization by using dinosaur pets.

Despite the fun and original narrative, most of the quests have a pattern so repetitive that even Doctor Strange would rather go for a round two with Dormammu; some rogue monsters go wild, villagers cry for help and users save the day with dinosaur pets just to receive tiny rewards. 

Writer’s game character (StoneAge World Screenshot)
Writer’s game character (StoneAge World Screenshot)

In fact, the 20 minutes spent on completing redundant quests felt like an eternity, immediately followed by an overwhelming sense of ennui that usually comes after hours of gameplay.

All in all, Netmarble’s StoneAge World is a good game for the company’s balance sheet, though its vitality system marginalized old-time users who wanted to relive cherished childhood memories of dinosaur adventures by playing the long-awaited 17-year-old game.

By Kim Byung-wook (kbw@heraldcorp.com)



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. Currently a captain in the first-person shooter game Sudden Attack and the owner of Lv.184 Soul Master in the role-playing game MapleStory, Kim still plays Football Manager 2017. -- Ed.
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