Age of Empires Mobile looks like it’s actually happening

Age of Empires fans know that getting a version of the game on mobile has been a long struggle. However, a new contender is set to be released soon. World’s Edge has unveiled new details for the upcoming Age of Empires Mobile at its “New Year, New Age” event on Friday, and the game looks to contain most of what you’d get in the regular console or PC version.

The free-to-play game is being developed by Tencent-owned TiMi Studio Group, which worked on Call of Duty Mobile with Activision, along with the studio World’s Edge, which is owned by Xbox. Age of Empires Mobile is now available for pre-registration on iOS and Android globally. There’s no word on a release date yet (although the iOS page says it’s expected on Aug. 19) but it’s expected to launch later in 2024.

The announcement claims that Age of Empires Mobile will replicate a lot of the gameplay with which fans are familiar, like fast-paced combat, real-time strategy, base-building, and online PvP multiplayer, but with controls that are optimized for mobile devices, Players will be able to make teams with a number of famous leaders from history and across the Age of Empires franchise, like Julius Caesar, King Arthur, Hannibal, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, and more. Developers promise players will be able to battle it out with tons of other people online — just like they would in the regular versions (although they can also play solo).

“We grew up playing Age of Empires on our PCs and believe we can offer a new but similarly exciting experience for mobile players,” Brayden Fan, a general manager for TiMi, said in a press release.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has tried to release a mobile version of the game. Back in June 2013, Microsoft was trying its hand at mobile game development, with one of its first projects being an Age of Empires mobile game. The IP was licensed out to KLabGames, which would develop a free-to-play version for iOS and Android (and later for Windows Phone, if you really want to date the announcement). This turned into Age of Empires: World Domination, which was released in December 2015, but got shut down in November 2016 — so it didn’t even last a year.

Microsoft had also tried a couple of times to make a free-to-play version of Age of Empires. First, there was Age of Empires Online, an MMO real-time strategy game that was released in 2011. It was free to download but featured premium content that wasn’t fairly priced. This, combined with the lack of content available in general, made the game unsustainable. Microsoft Studios executive producer Kevin Perry said at a GDC talk in 2013 that it was “an okay game but with a bad free-to-play business model,” so it didn’t last long either. There was also Age of Empires: Castle Siege from 2014, which was a tower defense game developed specifically for touchscreens on Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone, although it came to Android and iOS later. It was also free-to-play with microtransactions. That one lasted a little longer than the others, but it was still shut down in 2019.

A number of units attacking a central location in Age of Empires Mobile. The units are represented with bubbles that look to be easy to tap. There’s also a menu bar at the top that show your resources.

Image: World’s Edge/Xbox Game Studios

There is currently a China-only mobile game out on Android called Return to Empire, which was also developed by TiMi Studio. Age of Empires Mobile will be similar to the Chinese version, but in a statement to Polygon, Fan said that these are different games for different audiences, and that the newer title will have World’s Edge’s direct involvement; Return to Empire does not.

“Age of Empires Mobile will offer new concepts and designs, including more narrative, single-player content, more elements from the original Age of Empires franchise, an improved new player experience, and considerable differences in its core gameplay that we anticipate will keep global players engaged for a long time to come,” he said. “We also will be creating bespoke in-game activities and events for players so they feel like the game is a good fit for their local playstyles and preferences.”

Microsoft’s mobile strategy lately has been focused on making cloud gaming viable on smartphones and tablets. However, with the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft can now use the resources from King (developers of Candy Crush Saga), ZeniMax, and other studios to bolster that end of its portfolio. So with new resources, a long history of free-to-play failures, and the involvement of a studio with mobile development successes, maybe Age of Empires Mobile will stick this time.

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