Baseball Heroes is a new anime-style baseball sim for Facebook from Korean developer Syntasia Incorporated. The game entered a closed beta test period back in December of 2011, but launched its current open beta version in early April of this year. Earlier this week, the game showed up as the 9th fastest-growing Facebook game by DAU.
Baseball Heroes casts players in the role of an individual player on a fictional team of their choice. The game begins with players selecting their home (American) city and naming their team. Following this, they must create their avatar, who may be male or female regardless of real-life gender but may not be renamed. The player’s appearance may be changed for an in-game currency fee once the game has started, but choice of gender is permanent. This is a purely visual option, however, and makes no difference to the avatar’s capabilities.
The game is split into two main components: a light “management” section in which players build up their home stadium, collect income, train their players and purchase equipment, and the baseball matches themselves. The first play session begins with a brief tutorial that introduces both of these sections before cutting the player loose and allowing them to play how they please. As is the norm for social games, however, a number of “quests” adorn the side of the screen and allow players to earn bonus experience and soft currency by completing various objectives.
Playing a baseball match is an accelerated-time experience wherein the player’s only interaction is taking their avatar’s hits. This is accomplished by watching the incoming ball and clicking the appropriate point on a small “grid” to hit the ball accurately. Following a successful hit, a short, often exaggerated and spectacular animation is played depicting what happened to the ball. The actual outcome of a successful hit is determined semi-randomly, though building up the avatar’s statistics through leveling up, completing quests and purchasing equipment allows for increased likelihood of special shots and home runs.
To boost the team’s performance, the player has the opportunity to collect “special batters.” This is handled like a collectible card game — players purchase packs of cards which include random selections of these special batters, each of whom have their own capabilities and associated energy costs to use. In order to guarantee “Hero” batters rather than leaving it up to random chance, players have the option of spending Facebook Credits instead of soft currency. It’s also possible for players to assign their Facebook friends as batters in their team, and this speeds up the growth of the whole team’s performance.
At present, the game only allows for “season play” against various other computer-controlled teams, but the future holds the possibility of player-vs-player “friendly” matches as well as a more robust collection system for the batter cards, whereby collecting a complete “set” provides various bonuses to player statistics and money. As the game stands, however, it is a excellent, quick to play interpretation of baseball with attractive, endearing anime-style visuals, cheerful backing music and simple but addictive gameplay, making it particularly appropriate for younger players. For long-term success it will need a stronger social component to encourage user retention and competitive play — which will in turn lead to stronger monetization as players feel a stronger impetus to equip their team better. The game is certainly off to a good start so far, however, and is a great example of how to put together a good quality sports game for Facebook.
A fine example of how to get a sports game right on Facebook — simple, addictive and fun.