Dragon Flight Brings Back Fond Memories for Many

A couple of months ago I was on a bus ride home when I noticed no less than five people all playing the same mobile game. It was a time when the fuss over Anipang was starting to die down following its success on Kakao’s Game Center. At first it seemed to be some version of the classic scrolling shooter Raiden, but on closer inspection I realized that what I had thought was a plane was actually a dragon.

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The game turned out to be Dragon Flight, a twist on the scrolling shooter genre. The game has been a hit, not only for the younger generation but also for adults who have fond memories of Galaga which was extremely popular in Korean arcades after its release in the early 1980s. In the past months I have seen toddlers, business men and the elderly all trying their hand at flying a dragon.

Dragon Flight was developed by Korean startup NextFloor and is another title which has gained nationwide popularity due to its integration into the Kakao Game Center following other hits such as Anipang, CandyPang and I Love Coffee. Like most other games available on the platform, it utilizes users’ contact lists and players compete for the highest score among friends. Another trend in Kakao-based games is having a limit of games one can play within a certain period and this is also present in the form of sending and receiving “wings”. NextFloor director Seok-hyun Kim said that the company never imagined the game would be so successful.

“Of course we couldn’t foresee its success. We only thought that it would be the best selling title as our other games hadn’t done well.”

And done well it has, with a total of 16 million downloads on Android alone as of the first week of December. An iOS version was also released earlier this week, with user numbers continuing to increase. The game has also done well globally, with an original version of the app being launched three months prior to the Kakao version that topped the App Stores of 19 countries in total. NextFloor claims that it was through the original App Store version that the game began to get attention.

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The games emphasizes simplicity and tries to provide the player with an enjoyable, rather than frustrating experience — the game’s description reading, “Are you done playing difficult and complicated games?”. Shooting is automatic so there is no constant button pushing which often makes people tired. All the user needs to do is move their finger left and right to direct their dragon away or toward incoming enemies. It is this simple movement which has made the game playable anywhere, even when crammed into a subway car with hundreds of people, a common situation in Seoul life.

Dragon Flight’s developer NextFloor, is a somewhat mysterious startup and was only officially registered as a company in October. The team has been creating games since the summer of 2011 and when the shooter started to become popular, there was still little information online regarding the developer. Despite doing so well, NextFloor continues to remain relatively quiet and has been refraining from person-to-person interviews, but offering to provide online correspondence instead. The company claims that this is simply because staff numbers are low and the company is focused on working on its games.

Nevertheless, with such a successful game and popular following there has been a buzz about NextFloor and the story of how Dragon Flight was made — with rumors circulating on some sites that the game was developed solely by founder. According to director Kim, this is untrue.

“Dragon Flight was worked on by four main developers. It took two months to make and two more months to add patches, so a total of four months. There were many sleepless nights.”

NextFloor’s next step may be to enter other markets, and the company says that it is eyeing up Asia as its primary target. With the quick rise and fall of trends in Korea, it is also preparing another app but won’t reveal any information about it at this stage.

Kakao’s Game Center continues to show how powerful and profitable it is as a platform, reaching markets of both past and new gamers. The game platform was expanded internationally in November, three months after it was launched in Korea. Popular games will likely continue to hit the platform throughout next year, utilizing the same “point-competing” formula and possibly a chance that more heavy games might make an entrance too.

Check out NextFloor’s English site for more information or download the game for Android or iOS.

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