The mobile version of Vampire Survivors was fully and completely rolled out a month ago totally free (opens in new tab)– and I don’t mean free to play, just free. In a closing message from 2022 op Steam (opens in new tab)developer Poncle explained why it chose to give it away, and why that means some features on mobile, and the Legacy of the Moonspell (opens in new tab) DLC, may take longer than expected to arrive.
Poncle had no plans to make the mobile version of Vampire Survivors itself, but after “months” of searching for a mobile developer, it just couldn’t find anyone willing to generate “non-predatory” revenue, it claims. In the end, the hand of the studio was forced by the appearance of a large number clone (opens in new tab)many of which were “true 1:1 copies with stolen code, assets, data, [and] progression.”
So Poncle took on the task of releasing the real mobile version of Vampire Survivors as soon as possible. But since Poncle had no intention of getting into mobile development at all, there are still some missing or unpolished features, mainly cloud saving and transfer saving. “Since we still don’t have a backend/full stack engineer, this may take longer than expected,” said Poncle.
Poncle also explained why it chose to make Vampire Survivors free on mobile, a decision that’s great for players but also the cause of some headaches for the studio.
“If you’re like me, if you wanted Vampire Survivors on mobile, you would have just paid a few bucks for it and said it for a day,” Poncle wrote. “But the mobile market doesn’t work that way and making Vampire Survivors a paid app would have excluded a lot of new players from the game.
“This is why we settled on a ‘free-for-real’ approach, where monetization is minimal and designed to never interrupt your game, always be optional and under your control via a few ‘watch ads’ buttons, and don’t have one of those real money pits that mobile cash grabs are usually designed around, it’s just the full game, playable offline, in landscape or portrait, with touch controls or with a gamepad. “
It’s a valid point. Most mobile games are free-to-play, with relatively aggressive monetization programs that rely on “whales” – the small percentage of the player base that spend significant amounts of money – for survival. Not even Nintendo (opens in new tab) trying to precharge for mobile games.
At the same time, Poncle offered no insight into how it defines “non-predatory” monetization, how many developers it actually talked to, or what kind of terms it offered for taking on the task of porting Vampire Survivors and paying $0 for it. questions.
Regardless of the details, the completely free approach has left the studio unsure about how to handle future updates and the release of the Moonspell DLC. “The issues we face are the same as those mentioned above: how do we make it fair, but also accessible to players who only like free games?” Poncle wrote. “We’ll come up with something and publish the DLC as soon as possible!”
As for mobile bug fixes, Poncle said the process is slow because it doesn’t have access to devices it needs to replicate “niche” issues. “We’re working on it and have explored even the most unreliable places to find the devices we need,” the studio wrote.
The mobile version of Vampire Survivors is now available on the App Store (opens in new tab) and Google Play (opens in new tab). I’ve reached out to Poncle for more information on mobile game development and will update if I receive a response.