Game Manager Ignacio "Nacho" Marin shares his Asphalt story
In honor of Asphalt's 15th anniversary, we sat down with Ignacio “Nacho” Marín, Game Manager of Asphalt 9: Legends
In honor of Asphalt's 15th anniversary, we sat down with Ignacio “Nacho” Marín, Game Manager of Asphalt 9: Legends, to look back on his long and illustrious career with the franchise.
Nacho joined Gameloft Barcelona 14 years ago and has dedicated the past 9 to the racing game series. In addition to the latest installment, he has also worked on Asphalt 6: Adrenaline and Asphalt 8: Airborne. However, he didn’t originally start out in the video game industry. Nacho’s first job after receiving his master’s degree in business administration was at an international IT consulting firm. But after a year, he decided it wasn’t the place for him. He always wanted to work with video games, and in 2006, he saw a job opportunity at Gameloft as a producer. He applied for the position, and the rest is history.
How did you become involved with Asphalt?
I was actually making games for the new iPhone when I was asked to work on the Java version of Asphalt 6: Adrenaline. I wasn’t really familiar with the Asphalt series, and it sounded like a step backwards to an obsolete platform with many limitations like package size, screen resolution, and display restrictions, but it turned out to be a very fun project to work on.
As a producer, I had to make sure everyone had everything they needed to release the game on time and in the best quality possible. But I also helped fill in any gaps because the team was really small, about 6 people. We wanted to make a new Asphalt that was better than the last, so we created the Adrenaline mode, which had a similar effect as the nitros in Asphalt 9. The screen would turn bright pink, and it felt like you took some pills and were going crazy. It was awesome.
Did you ever anticipate the success of the games you worked on or the series as a whole?
I think any game series that has so many iterations on the market must be deemed successful. But I didn’t know Asphalt 6 would become such a hit. I received a bonus a few years later because it turned out to be one of the the best-selling Java games on mobile phones. That was really unexpected.
On the other hand, I thought Asphalt 8: Airborne would do well because it looked beautiful and had console-quality graphics. You never know though. We launched the game for 99 cents in the stores, and it didn’t do badly, but it wasn’t as popular as we thought it would be. Then Apple offered to give away the game for free one weekend and boom! The number of downloads exploded. That’s when we realized this game had the potential to be very successful. If you get millions of downloads in a single weekend, you’re really getting stablished as a franchise that won’t die any time soon, and I’m proud to say that Asphalt 8 almost has 500 million downloads now.
What did Asphalt 8: Airborne bring to the series?
It was very different from the previous games. Cars had the ability to fly and spin around in the air, which were inspired by skateboarders and skate parks. I remember seeing the acrobatic moves in development and thinking, what the hell. This isn’t a mobile game. We were able to combine beautiful graphics, top speed, and amazing tricks to give the Asphalt 8 community a unique driving experience that they loved and still love today.
Why did you create Asphalt 9: Legends when Asphalt 8: Airborne was still thriving?
Before Asphalt 8, the games were always premium, and a new one was released almost every year. Asphalt 8 was also created as a premium game, but we switched to a freemium model after the launch. It was a new market at the time, and no one knew the game would last so long. But we wanted to add new features like clubs, create a new engine, and improve gameplay. Asphalt 8 had technical limitations and we couldn’t make all these changes without turning it into a different game. We needed a fresh start.
Many features in Asphalt 9 come from Asphalt 8 because the same team worked on both. We knew the game’s core values and what made it successful, and we wanted to build on these strengths. TouchDrive is one of the biggest gameplay innovations we introduced, and it’s something I’m quite proud of because I think it makes the game more accessible to casual players. We were also able to scale up the graphics, introduce HDR, and use realistic lighting methods, which made the game look objectively so much better.
What are your best and worst memories while working on Asphalt?
My best and worst memories are always kind of linked. I remember the horror of working overtime for days on end, including weekends, to launch Asphalt 8 on time. I left the office at around 3 AM one night, and I passed a huge line of half-drunk people having fun and waiting to get into a club, while I was totally dead. All I wanted to do was to get home and sleep before going back to work a few hours later! But moments like these made the end that much sweeter. Nothing is better than shouting “gold” to the world after wrapping up a project. This is something I miss in the gaming industry. Games are never finished anymore because they’ve turned into an ongoing service.
What’s the secret to Asphalt’s long-term success?
The gaming industry can be very cruel and competitive, so it's important to have a clear differential advantage. No other racing game on the current market delivers fast, fun, and addictive gameplay and gorgeous visuals like Asphalt. We also continually bringing value to our players by introducing new cars, tracks, locations, and game modes. You can’t survive for so long just by creating new content though. Our players keep coming back because we help them grow and improve their skills. But we wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of this without a kickass team dedicated to creating the best racing experience possible.
Out of all the awards that Asphalt has won, are there any that stand out?
I remember going to New York for the Webby Awards and standing next to Michael Douglas on stage, which was cool.
But for me, the real reward is working with an incredible group of people and keeping this racing franchise at the top for so long. Awards are great because they give recognition to the team and company, but my greatest satisfaction comes from making our players happy.
What do you enjoy most about working on the franchise?
I love how amazing the games look in the palm of your hand. I think mobile games have always been belittled by PC and console players, and many people see them as a gimmick, so I enjoy pushing the technological limits in every new game. I also like how I’m always learning new things and tackling new challenges. The industry is constantly evolving, so there’s never time to be bored. But I’m afraid of going on vacation for more than a week because when you come back too many things have changed!
What does the future hold for Asphalt?
I’d love to see Asphalt go viral and become a cultural phenomenon like Fornite or Minecraft. There are very few games that transcend the gaming industry, but I think it would be great to try and find ways for it to break out of the racing niche on mobile because it deserves to keep growing.
We hope to see Nacho's vision become a reality. In the meantime, you can celebrate the game’s anniversary with special events in Asphalt 8: Airborne and Asphalt 9: Legends!