Hypergryph’s New Game is Going to be Buy-to-Play Instead of Another Gacha

Arknights developer Hypergryph recently announced their second game – Ex Atris.

Arknights was one of the most successful anime style gacha products on the Chinese market in 2019. The then little-known Hypergryph made its debut with a big hit and became a star company in the industry. For two and a half years, Arknights was Hypergryph’s only product until the announcement of Ex Astris.

Instead of another free-to-play anime gacha game, Ex Astris is a 3D anime style RPG that went back to a more traditional monetization method. Players only need to pay for the game once and then can access all the game’s content, Hypergryph has confirmed that there will be no in-app purchases. This transformation surprised many as it broke the path dependency of Hypergryph’s previous success. In many gamers’ eyes, Free-to-Play and Buy-to-Play symbolize two very different game development ideas and operation models. 

Ex Atris is developed by Nous Wave, a studio in the Hypergryph Network, meaning it is a new, independent series. Unlike the wasteland style and industrial feel in Arknights, the art style of Ex Astris is more like a "planet exploration" game, combining science fiction and ancient civilization.

The visual style emphasizes more on gentle curves, instead of the hard edges and square geometry elements in Arknights

Ex Astris does feel more like a modern turn-based JRPG, with the progression system and labyrinth maps, It also allows players to instantly respond with defense or parry during battles,  giving some sense of action and feedback during combat. The system feels very much like Yakuza 7 in many ways.

Aside from the above details, Ex Astris has a more distinctive feature – the ACG-style science fiction theme.

Arknights was known for its stylistic art.  We can see from the pre-alpha gameplay that the game's visual style is a combination of anime cell shading and realistic rendering - the character's image and expressions favor the ACG cartoon style, but the scene environment and the character's clothing materials are closer to the real world.

The light and texture of the water surface feels more realistic than stylized

Most people are more interested in why Ex Astris is choosing Buy-to-Play as its monetization model. As a mobile game, this feels like  “sailing against the wind”.

However,  Chinese mobile game developers nowadays are not so resistant to Buy-to-Play, and actually happy to let them become part of the mobile game ecology. More and more companies that made their fortunes with Free-to-Play games are willing to release some Buy-to-Play games to appeal to different player demographics.

Hypergryph hopes their new game would reach players who value the game's content, gathering more accurate feedback about their content, art and technological capabilities.

Ex Astris also releases a signal that more Chinese ACG mobile game companies are likely to enter the more traditional console and PC single player market. Since Chinese players are more likely to pay for good single player games than ever, big companies who want to invest in the single-player game field are rushing to the market.

In the past, aggressive monetization has become such a trend that many game designers have developed a habit of rigidly inserting "premium services" into their games, and ruining the entire experience and the franchise brand as a result. If game developers are willing to take a step back and give up some of the extra revenue that comes from micro transactions, so that designers can be freed up to make games from a perspective that values the player experience, then the ideas that these people have developed may also uplift the experiences of those Free-to-Play games.

Now Hypergryph has at least taken the first step, which may deserve a round of applause regardless of the result.

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