Over the past decade, mobile gaming has undergone quite a few shifts to become the behemoth that we know it as now. There's a big emphasis on free-to-play nowadays, as titles like Fortnite, Pokemon Go, and Marvel Snap all provide very unique experiences for players. That wasn't always the case though, as once upon a time developers made full-fledged, paid-for titles that actually told a story, rather than the ones released today that cater towards more of a pick-up-and-play mindset.
IronMonkey Studios was one such developer, one which managed to create a handful of successful titles back in the day, including a surprisingly popular Dead Space mobile game. Mass Effect Infiltrator was another fairly decent game – nothing that would blow your mind, but unlike anything that'd been seen on mobile devices during the time. IronMonkey Studios was acquired by Electronic Arts back in 2010, after which they were apparently told to make mobile titles for a number of franchises, including Dragon Age and Dante's Inferno.
This was revealed in a new interview between Stealth Optional and IronMonkey Studios manager and art director Daniel Tonkin, in which Tonkin reveals some of the projects they were working on at the time and why they never saw the light of day. Tonkin explains that a Dragon Age mobile game was in development during the time in which BioWare was working on Dragon Age 2. The game would've been a Diablo-style action-RPG set during the same time as Dragon Age: Origins, in which you'd travel to places in Thelas untouched by the console games.
According to Tonkin, the team working on the Dragon Age mobile game recieved regular feedback from the team at BioWare, as Tonkin himself would visit the original game’s art director Dean Andersen to collaborate on the title. Unfortunately, it seems like the project was destined to fail, as Tonkin explains that the reason for the game never releasing was down to EA shifting its priorities to the emerging free-to-play mobile game market, as games like Simpsons: Tapped Out and Candy Crush released to widespread commercial success.
"I enjoyed a period with EA where they were still more inclined to create traditional, ‘premium’ games, like Dead Space and Mass Effect," says Tonkin. "Towards the end of my time there, the shift towards free-to-play and all that it entailed was happening… not just EA, but the greater mobile games industry is always looking for IPs that can be leveraged into free-to-play."
As for Dante's Inferno, Tonkin claims that was more of a case of the studio taking on more than it could chew. The game would have been a 2D action-sidescroller, a complete shift from the original game's playstyle. IronMonkey apparently put around six months of work into the project before it was scrapped by EA, something which Tonkin puts down to a lack of focus.
While both titles never saw the App Store, at least we now know these games actually existed at some point. Whether they'd have been any good we'll never know, but some people out there will probably hear the words 'top-down Diablo-style Dragon Age RPG' and longingly think about what could've been.
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