Massively Overthinking: NCsoft’s western autumn

    
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This week’s Massively Overthinking is brought to you by a guildie of mine named Onyx, who donated to our Kickstarter campaign in this tier and then nominated me to pick a topic for him. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

I’d like to expand on a listener question addressed in a recent Massively OP podcast. Korean powerhouse NCsoft has been talking up its western push all summer, and this fall, it appears to be delivering: We’ll have WildStar’s F2P relaunch, Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns release, and Blade & Soul’s first western beta all coming out in the span of a single month, competing directly with each other, not just against other studios’ MMOs. So which game do you think is going to be NCsoft’s biggest winner in its move to carve out a better foothold in the west? And what do you think about NCsoft’s goals on this side of the pond?

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Every quarter, we all look at NCsoft’s financials and boggle at the money the company rakes in thanks to classic Lineage in its home country, seemingly with very little effort. Western games make NCsoft so little money by comparison that when the company said it was focusing heavily on its western ventures earlier this year, we didn’t even originally take it seriously (and some of our writers apparently still don’t). But here we are, and NCsoft is utterly dominating the western MMO space this autumn. I said on the podcast a few weeks back that I thought Blade & Soul might struggle here in a space already well-trod by TERA and that WildStar has so much PR work to do to convince the world to see it anew. Heart of Thorns’ steep box price will probably help it top NCsoft’s charts this season, at least on this side of the pond. Lineage microtrans can’t be beat back home.

I’d certainly like to see NCsoft turn around its western fortunes and win back some hearts. And I have a pretty good idea what it should do next to that end.

Jef Reahard (@jefreahard): NCsoft has been pretty open about its desire to focus on mobile crapola over the past few months. We’ve covered at least two separate announcements where it said as much. I don’t know that the firm has ever had much at stake in Guild Wars 2, and didn’t it just disappear from the game’s TOS? WildStar is what it is; some people love it and I’m sure it will survive for a while thanks to the business model switcheroo. Blade & Soul looks fun to me personally, but I doubt it’s going to make much noise here in the land of anti-Asian MMO gamers.

It seems like NCsoft is just milking these games for what little it can get in the West. The firm is much bigger in Asia, and as I said, starting to focus on mobile.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Call me a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed optimist, but after playing WildStar these past few months and seeing what free-to-play is going to offer, I think that this game has a real shot of pulling off an underdog win for 2015. As I’ve been championing for a while now, WildStar is a good game that’s only gotten better now that the devs have shied away from the hardcore attitude and shored up some of the title’s weaker features. It’s a heck of a lot of fun and its F2P model — in my opinion — strikes up the right balance for offering a ton for free while still pursuing multiple lines of revenue. If the game can pull in the crowds and get the money machine rolling, we could be in for an exciting ride!

Your turn!

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breetoplay
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breetoplay

Radfist breetoplay Peregrine_Falcon CoH wasn’t dwindling to unprofitable levels, not even close; we have those numbers. You might argue Paragon itself was unprofitable, but no one knows how much exactly they were spending on that second game.

WindarFenris
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WindarFenris

Honestly NCsoft was what brought me to MMOs with Lineage II.  I will be playing Blade and soul.  Don’t really get the hate but then again, I never had any interest in City of Heroes soo…yeah.  GW2 looks interesting and I’ll likely pick it up but it’s not a preorder for me and wildstar could be good but again not a huge interest there. (I did buy it but only played a few days before quitting.)  So Blade and soul’s the mmo for me this fall.

MonsoonGibby
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MonsoonGibby

The only thing NCSoft could ever do to get me to even consider giving them money would be to revive City of Heroes or sell the IP to someone else who would.

Gottphoenix
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Gottphoenix

Rozyn jefreahard Gottphoenix the anti-asian game bias is mostly only on forums and message boards. Just like the “hardcore crowd” in Wildstar, it does not necessarily represent reality.

Rozyn
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Rozyn

jefreahard Gottphoenix Big budget Western games fade in obscurity here at home all the time as well. Without actual data, both arguments are based on anecdotes and cherry picked titles. Unfortunately, actual data is pretty hard to find. I suspect you’re both right, there’s an anti-Asian bias, even if the game’s good it’ll be perceived as a grinder, and a lot of mediocre Western MMOs fail as well, as country of origin can’t save a shit title. FFXIV is a quality Asian game with very Western gameplay that has done quite well for itself. Asian-ness can be overcome (blech, that sounds so racist put that way), but it takes high quality, IMO.

srmalloy
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srmalloy

Rozyn Gottphoenix There’s a fundamental gaming style difference between Asian and Western MMO gaming. In Asia, few people had computers capable of running the graphics-intensive MMOs, so the MMO companies would subsidize the bangs (internet cafes), and people would meet up with their friends, go down to the bang, and game as a group. As a result, Asian MMOs are almost invariably designed so that, once you’re out of the starting area, you need to be in a group to complete the content. Western gamers, on the other hand, would upgrade their own computers to be able to run the MMOs, so they would go home and log into the MMO, with their gaming group being scattered across the country, so except for arranged times when the group games together, they would play as individuals. So Western MMOs tended to have a main storyline that could be played solo, with the content that required groups mostly pushed to endgame (i.e., raiding). 

For a Western gamer who’s just getting into an MMO, an Asian-style MMO presents an increasingly-steep wall blocking advancement if they can’t find a group to join that plays around the same schedule they do. Similarly, Asian gamers getting into Western MMOs often find that the solo storyline content doesn’t scale well for groups, so the results are disappointing. It’s a basic stylistic difference between the two markets, and each type of MMO is going to have an uphill battle brought into the other market.

Gottphoenix
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Gottphoenix

jefreahard Gottphoenix 

Translation of an interview with Bluehole Studio’s former producer Kim Nak Heong: 
https://tera-forums.enmasse.com/forums/general-discussion/topics/BHS-Elin-saved-Tera

“Tera’s release in North America was a bit complicated. Month before Tera’s release in NA was Diablo 3, and month after was Guild War 2. Because of the competition, we shifted our focus to the Chinese market, because Free-to-Play games were very popular in China. But after some time had passed, Tera ended up doing best in North America compared to in other countries. ”

All the other big budget asian games? When I hear of big budget asian mmorpgs, I think of FFXIV: ARR, FFXI, Lineage, Lineage II, Aion, Archeage, Tera, Vindictus.
These are the main AAA asian mmorpgs and all of them beside Lineage 1 and FFXIV 1.0 are doing solid in the west and are considered good games and are well received. So which one of these did fade into obscurity (excluding the shutdown Lineage 1 of course) ? If you are going to say Lineage 2, then i say that the game would not have such an immense private server community if it was poorly received in the west. And I would also say that the  turmoil  regarding the western archeage version is largely due to incompetent western publisher decisions and not mainly due to  the quality of the core game.

So yes, clueless was the right word.

jefreahard
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jefreahard

Gottphoenix No, clueless is cherry-picking one game that’s doing better in the west (allegedly, assuming you believe SuperData, who doesn’t disclose their methods or actual numbers and basically just asks people to trust them) and ignoring all the other big-budget Asian games that fade into obscurity here yet do well in their home countries.

Celestia
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Celestia

While I still am angry and sad that NCsoft killed my beloved City of Heroes which in turn made into an MMO nomad, I do have respect for the team heading up Blade & Soul’s NA/EU release.  If they keep it up, they might win me back.

AngelBlack
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AngelBlack

Ive been playing wildstar f2p on the PTR client. Man my mouse hand gets tired playing it.