A former manager of IronMonkey shared that the studio once worked on a mobile version of the popular BioWare franchise and an original game for mobile, with the latter one not being able to see the light of day due to the publisher's focus on microtransaction-based games.
In the early 2000s, Electronic Arts was well-known for franchises like The Sims and Need for Speed as well as sports games. With the advent of the Xbox 360 and PS3, the publisher shifted its focus and invested heavily in new game series, giving rise to Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Dead Space, and more.
EA's push into mobile gaming was integral to a short but significant movement of high-quality console gaming on phones. To expand its new franchises, apart from spin-off movies, comic books, and novels EA produced mobile tie-in games that offered new stories based on beloved video games.
EA-owned Australian developer IronMonkey Studios handled most of the company's mobile push, working on popular franchises like Mass Effect and Dead Space. The latter became one of the most critically acclaimed mobile games of all time. However, IronMonkey also worked on several mobile games that never made it to the market.
The studio's former manager and art director Daniel Tonkin spoke about such projects in an interview with Stealth Optional, revealing that the studio once worked on the mobile versions of Dragon Age and Dante’s Inferno as well as an original console-quality mobile title.
Tonkin shared that the work on the Dargon Age mobile spin-off was going at the same time when BioWare was developing Dragon Age 2 and IronMonkey was busy with Dead Space Mobile.
The game, which would take place during the same time period as Dragon Age: Origins, was set to take a more action-oriented approach to the series, transforming the world of Thedas into an action RPG in the vein of Diablo. It would also allow players to create a new character, explore new areas, and meet new characters in the game's world.
It's unclear why Dragon Age Mobile never made it to the audience especially considering that EA was "very supportive" of what the developers were doing with the game, as Tonkin recalls.
Another game that IronMonkey was working on and that never eventually released was the mobile version of Dante's Inferno, a 2010 action-adventure game from developer Visceral Games which is loosely based on Inferno, the first canticle of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy.
According to Tonkin, the IronMonkey team worked closely with the title's original developer turning the console game into a 2D action-sidescroller. Although the work on the art and level design of the game was progressing well, as Tonkin notes, a lack of managerial focus resulted in issues with the gameplay design which couldn't be fixed in time.
"The truth is, we didn’t give Dante’s Inferno enough attention. We had many projects running simultaneously, and we – as managers – made the mistake of taking our eyes off the project and letting it run for too long without guidance," Tonkin explained.
Soon after Dead Space was released, IronMonkey started working on an original IP that was planned to be a third-person shooter. The team dedicated a lot of time and effort to the project, it spend about three years developing it but the game wasn’t destined to see the light of day.
Tonkin explained that at the time, the mobile market started shifting towards microtransaction-driven freemium games and IronMonkey's vision for creating console-style games for mobile devices was hindered.
"I enjoyed a period with EA where they were still more inclined to create traditional, ‘premium’ games, like Dead Space and Mass Effect," he said. "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."
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