Pearl Abyss is building four more MMOs as Black Desert swells to 7.65M registered users

We’ve been tracking Black Desert developer Pearl Abyss’ path to IPO since last spring, when multiple Korean outlets began reporting that the company sought a listing on the Korean stock exchange this coming fall. A few weeks ago, the company’s IPO press conference let loose a few more tidbits MMO players might be intrigued to learn. As parsed from Invenglobal’s translation, here are the highlights:

  • Black Desert took four years to make and currently operates in 100 countries. “The total RU [registered users] is more than 7.65 million based on July 2017, and the total sales are approximately ₩340b [$301M].”
  • As of the end of July 2017, PA has sold 530K copies of the game through Steam, amounting to $1.3M in sales. “The title was placed No. 2 of the total sales on Steam on June 20th.” (There’s a section that notes the game cost only ₩1.2b ($1M) to make, “a relatively small cost […] compared to other MMORPGs,” but we assume they’re talking about just the engine specifically there.)

  • The company believes PC online games have “an extremely long life cycle,” on average between 10 and 11 years. “BDO has been on the market for 2 years and 8 months, and we expect it to follow the global games’ long life cycle.” In particular, PA highlights its continuing sales, particularly in Japan, though you can see from the charts, the western launch was a nice spike for the game too.
  • PA suggests that BDO is effectively its best performer overseas (i.e., here): “Unlike the sales of existing titles is focused in South Korea and China, we expect our title to make a solid result in the global market with our existing PC IP.”
  • “87% of employees are all developers.” Pearl Abyss is self-publishing Taiwan and aims to expand into South East Asia, Turkey, the Middle East, China (where Snail Games is publishing the game), and further European territories.
  • Plans still include mobile and console; on mobile, that’d be Black Desert Online M. It is still not clear whether PA will publish that on its own. The company notes the console market is five to 10 times bigger than the PC market and believes BDO will do well on console here. The console launch is not expected to have “any major game changes.”
  • PA is working on four more games, all of which “will be able to show [PA’s] competitiveness” and “might have the keyword ‘MMO’,” says CEO Kyung In Jung. “Two games are in development [and] aim to be released in the second half of 2018. The other two aim to be released in 2019 and 2021. All of them are in progress to be network-based games with high-quality graphics by using the self-developed engine.”
  • Corporate acquisition is also on the agenda. “We are interested in acquiring companies that can make games just like how we do with our IP.”

The company will offer 1.8M shares at $0.44 apiece when it goes public on September 14th.

Source: InvenGlobal. Cheers, Sally!
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32 Comments on "Pearl Abyss is building four more MMOs as Black Desert swells to 7.65M registered users"

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Dystopiq

That’s 2 games made by a Korean Dev doing well in the West. PUBG is the other.

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Robert Mann

Good news for MMO fans here, BDO may not have everything I want, and it may have had some issues, but that’s true of most games! Hope they roll out some quality stuff for us all!

styopa
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styopa

I’d be curious to find out the full budget for development of this AAA MMO, and then compare that to where Chris Roberts’ project stands today…

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Sally Bowls

The most puzzling comment for me was

“Due to the self-developed engine, we were able to develop the title with a relatively small cost of ₩1.2b compared to other MMORPGs.”

1.2B kwon is US$1.06M Did they really do BDO for a million bucks?

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

Probably just the engine but there’s always the possibility that they didn’t pay the developers all that well. Also, you have to consider the S.Korean economy. ₩1.2b might be a lot over there.

styopa
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styopa

As per the article, I can’t really believe that either. That might be JUST the development of the graphics engine.

IIRC Pearl Abyss has something like 150 employees, so salary alone for the 4 year development was probably on the order of $30 million ($50k average per head per year, times 150 times 4 years); I’d have to guess at least $50 million for the game in total.

Even double that, and they pushed the game out in 4 years for $100 mill, compared a certain-other-not-to-be-named space game that’s at what, 5 years, still scrambling to get a middle-alpha out the door, burning a kickstarted $150 million so far?

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Loyal Patron
Rottenrotny

Probably 7 million of which, like me, played for a couple weeks and went mehhhhh.

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A DIGITAL MONSTER

legitimate question.. how would I buy shares in the company when they go public?

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Melissa McDonald

Korea Securities Dealers Association KOSDAQ Index
https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/KOSDAQ:IND

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

At least South Korea still continues to hold it down on the MMO front. Western developers seem to have largely abandoned the expensive, risky genre (Destiny 2 isn’t a full-fledged MMO, though it’s closer than Destiny 1!), but it’s good that Korea is still hanging in there.

I’ll put more time into BDO one of these days, or so I keep telling myself. I lie to myself pretty often when it comes to my time management/plans : (

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Khrome

Please note that Korean MMO’s aren’t actually MMO’s but mobile games with fancy graphics.

Their business model should be rather obvious there.

This presentation also dashed my hopes of ever seeing an actual *game* come out of BDO… More cash shop integration please! :/

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Arktouros

Just goes to show when you design a good MMO game it can be very successful in today’s mature and burned out market regardless if it’s Asian or Western. BDO’s level of thoughtfulness and complexity in all it’s game design as well as constant, free updates with massive content drops show what it takes these days.

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Khrome

The game is structured entirely around its cash shop, and sacrifices have been made to push people towards paying more for the game in an unpleasant way. The entire “wait 15 minutes/24 hours” mechanic is lifted straight from mobile games and exists solely to be able to sell you a way to skip the timer rather than to present an interesting game mechanic.

Same with for example memory fragments, which require a LOT of effort to get, but sell artisan memories and suddenly “it becomes easier”. Same goes for a lot of other stuff they sell.

I gave up on the game after i realized that the cash shop isn’t supporting the game, but the game is supporting the cash shop. However, i’m still hoping for a turnaround, or at least a subscription server where the cash shop or pearl economy has zero influence on the game (as in, zero zero, no selling items from cash shop, no xp boosts on costumes, no maids, etc).

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Arktouros

Very little has been structured around it’s cash shop. What they’ve done is take the convienence from other games and removed it and put it in it’s cash shop. So, for example, in GW2 you might kill lots of things but then you can AOE loot. Black Desert has you kill a lot of things, then sells you pets that loot. The game play in that sense is the same the difference is what is and isn’t sold to you. Conversely a game like GW2 will charge you for large game expansions and new systems/classes via expansions where as BDO will give away new content areas and new classes for free (including, usually, a free character slot).

Most of the time reduction for pearls offerings are very recent. More over, like most of Black Desert’s cash shop offerings, while they offer an advantage they don’t offer enough of an advantage that a normal, non-paying individual couldn’t compete with them. This is because the money/hr generated by them just isn’t there. However I understand the feeling people have about being nickled and dimed to death with small amounts of paying for advantages being all around them which while none are sufficiently rewarding enough to really freak out there’s a never ending tide of small ones that annoy people.

Artisan Memories are, without argument, the most pay2win feature to the cash shop. No one can really argue that point so I’m not going to try. It’s one of those things you either gotta accept or just quit and I wouldn’t judge anyone who quit over Artisan Memories.

The game’s cash shop very much supports the game and Pearl Abyss also very much supports our version. Much of the new group oriented content (Kamasilvia, etc) was put there because of the NA/EU’s outcry against not enough group content. Many specific features we’ve requested have made it in, such as a PvP specific server coming tomorrow for those rabid people who want no karma loss while grinding.

Expecting games today to have no cash shop influence is a pipe dream. When you actually compare the kinds of impact money has on actual game play in BDO compared to many other similar games it’s incredibly favorable for BDO. This is a big reason a lot of people eventually ended up returning to the game, in fact, after their initial freak out over the cash shop.

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Khrome

I’m sorry, but that’s a little overoptimistic or even naïve.

PA doesn’t care about our version. The current state of Valencia is proof enough of this.

In Korea, the game has been balanced around the use of daily item scrolls, the ones you can currently only get from the 90 day VP. Those scrolls there only work in Valencia, and they make the content there worth grinding over Sausans/Pirates.

Instead of adjusting drop rates to match, our version is a direct copy of the Korean one where the Valencia content is simply not worth grinding over Sausans or Pirates because we don’t have those scrolls – And the ones we do have make grinding at Sausans even more worth it since they’re not locked to Valencia.

This is just a small example. Others would include the various translation errors which persist to this day, a complete lack of consistency in the translations we do get, and more and more cash shop features from Korea are making their way to ours. It’s just a matter of time before melting costumes comes to the EUNA version, as well as Valk’s Cry.

Once you realize this it’s easy to see how the game most certainly has been structured around the cash shop. It’s not just looting: It’s the memories, the entire horse training system, the functional costumes (maid, chef, etc), the furniture (with points you can *never* get with normal ingame furniture), and so on. The entire game has been made in such a way that the shop doesn’t provide a convenience to make the game better, but that playing without paying is the suboptimal way to play. It’s a subtle but massively important difference.

I once thought like you did. But after a while another realization creeps in, and that’s when you see that everything you do is cheapened by the cash shop. *EVERYTHING*. Everything you do can be done better if you pay for it. Everything you “accomplish” has no meaning because someone else paid for the same accomplishment. Part of the allure of an MMO is that you play in the same game world as everyone else, with or against them but most importantly under the same ruleset. If the rules are different for every individual player, the concept breaks down, and this is a problem for BDO in particular since there’s already such heavy limits on what you can do *together*. It’s a singleplayer game essentially, and this is another thing which devalues the game. It’s especially heartbreaking when people even hypocritically state that “it doesn’t affect me”, and thus completely miss the point of an MMO: It’s a shared world. It’s not a singleplayer game. If something, anything in the game doesn’t affect *you* you’re not playing an MMO.

Lastly, BDO is symptomatic of the current development in gaming in general. Nickel and dime people for everything. Profit margins come first, the customer and the game come last. Shareholder opinions are the most important, the customers just need to pay you and stay quiet. Game design in service of the bottom line. People constantly spout their hate on EA, Activision and Ubisoft for doing such things, but when it comes to MMO’s it’s suddenly allright?

BDO currently has a profit margin of roughly 300%. “Good for the company” you might think, but then you realize, this means that they are not investing back into the game. The new content you praise? Nothing but a red herring, a marketing tool to get new players to play and old players to keep playing (same as attendance rewards). That new content is forgotten and ignored as soon as its released. What was actually done with everything we’ve gotten so far? Have the original regions ever seen a significant upgrade or addition since the release of the game? No, because players should ignore it and be distracted by the new shiny.

The game is a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with the current state of the game industry, and people praise it as if it’s the second coming of Jesus. It honestly, truly scares me for the future, because i really do expect that 90% of games coming out after this year will basically follow the structure of EA’s mobile version of Dungeon Keeper. Make the game as inconvenient as possible unless you pay far more for it than it’s worth, and have people sing your praises for providing a valuable “service”.

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silverlock

It’s nice to see at least one South Korean developer seems to have figured out just because pc based mmo’s are dying in Korea doesn’t mean they can’t still do well in the west.

Reader
Sally Bowls

In this press conference, they did say

The console market in the NA, the region where we have already launched our PC version, is 5 to 10 times bigger than that of PC online

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Alex Willis

PC online games have “an extremely long life cycle,” on average between 10 and 11 years.

Very curious about this statistic. We’ve really only seen a few datapoints of successful 10-to-11-year online games (not to say MMOs), because we’ve really only been playing online games in any mainstream, non-niche sense since the mid-90s or early 2000s. So it’s not that I disagree that online PC games *can* have lifecycles of this duration — but it’s a bit of a stretch to say that it’s an “average”.

Generally, though, I think this is good news, although part of me worries they will get too big for their britches and overexpand before the market is there. Still, it’s a gorgeous game, and they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

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Sally Bowls

The average service period of top 10 global online games is 10 years and 4 months.

was the quote from the press conference. I.e., not so much that all PC games are a decade but the hits last a decade – as opposed to Madden 2017 or FIFA 2017.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Alex Willis

This is useful, thanks.

Reader
wratts

I think given the experience of the Ultima Onlines, Everquest, WoW, Asheron’s Call, etc. they’ve got a number of data points to suggest a successful title can go 10-11 years. Plenty of other titles are coming up on that Lotro, DDO, Age of Conan, etc.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Alex Willis

Given the investment levels of this game, I’m not sure anything besides WoW could count as a “success” in the way that they are likely thinking about. But I take your point.

Reader
Khrome

MMO’s can be considered a success when they turn a healthy profit, which a lot of MMO’s do. Developers and publishers are gradually realizing that success does not exclusively mean ‘WoW levels’.

Remember EQ1 used to be *the* cashcow for SOE and was considered a MASSIVE success. It also peaked at 500k subscribers.

Most MMO’s only need between 20k and 50k ‘subscribers’ (or the f2p equivalent income) to break even. Anything over 100-200k active accounts/subs can be considered a success and allows for continued development. 500k+ is enough to fund entirely new games on the side.

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Duey Bear

Judging WoW as the only success is like judging Alexander the Great as the only successful leader. Leaders can be judged successful without conquering much of the known world in 10 years starting in their early 20s.

borghive
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borghive

Yep, MMOs are dying.

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Duey Bear

Totes, $200million+ return on investment, such failure /s.

borghive
Reader
borghive

Um it was sarcasm. *wink*

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Melissa McDonald

BDO… game of the year 2017, also.

They’ve seriously prospered this year, have added tons of content and new classes, haven’t “messed it up”, haven’t committed any big faux pas, and are very generous with perks and rewards to the players.

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Yoshi Senpai

They messed up big in my opinion with the new horde mode.

A feature people have been looking forward to and asking for since release and it was designed in the dumbest way possible. Whoever thought people loved the clunky musket combat is on crack and it’s a shame since BDO has amazing combat with their classes, but the biggest WTF is the fact only less than 1% of the games online players can take part in it at a given time.

Literally haven’t touched the game since I tried for an hour to play it only to find out that 120 people at a time can go in and there was 14k logged in on steam alone.

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jay

Have zero issue getting into it when ever I like. That aside the rift’s are not intended to be a mainstream part of the game, but rather just a side minigame to take part in at times for fun. The first week of release they were packed, and grind spots were empty. Now it’s started to normalize a bit.

The ironic part of the rift changes is that the xp you get is static for completing the rift. Because of this nature, and the fact that there’s no decent places to grind for a 60 and 61; those 60+ chars get better xp in the rift per min, than they do out grinding mobs.

So we’re seeing fewer and fewer 60+ people clogging up great grind spots.

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Kickstarter Donor
squidgod2000

and are very generous with perks and rewards to the players

Like free booze at a casino…

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Khrome

Best way to describe the game i’ve seen so far.

wpDiscuz