Archive for: July 2009

European Launches

There’s been quite a news about games starting services in Europe. Here are some more;

[Editorial] Why Some Games Just Do Not Translate Well?

This is a guest posting written by reformedgamer. You can learn more about reformedgamer at the bottom of the posting.

I will continue to encourage my colleagues in the field to share their empirical knowledge and data with us here. If you have something to share, do not hesitate to write me an email at pr@thisisgame.com

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Looking for the Big Bucks:

Regardless of whoever’s statistics you use (DFC, PWC, Screen Digest, etc.), the North American (NA) online gaming market is one of the 3 largest in the world.? As a result, various groups have looked to this segment as a means to expanding their revenue.? Traditional US retail publishers see the NA online market as an additional platform to grow their revenue; entertainment companies like Disney see it as an additional way to reach and expand their consumer base; while international online game stalwarts such as NC Soft, NHN, and Nexon see this market as a natural place to leverage their online gaming expertise.

Unfortunately, success has been very elusive to most.? For every, World of Warcraft, Runescape, Dofus, or MapleStory, there have been hundreds of games that have failed.?? This is particularly true with the “Free2Play” market.

Many see the “Free2Play”?market as next big thing.? Some even say that the “Free2Play”? market will replace the console market entirely.? Like many of you, I have my own opinion on this, but what I wanted to discuss today is why so many so-called “Free2Play”?experts who enter this market fail.? Many companies trying to enter this market are either importing Asian “Free2Play”?games or using Asian expertise developed by partnering with a “Free2Play”?developer or learned by developing games for Korea and/or China.?? The reason why people who enter the US market using these methods have a 90%+ change of failing is because a slight cultural differences that make a HUGE impact on the “Free2Play” market.? Success in Asia does not necessarily translate to success in the US and vice versa as many US companies have already found out.

US and Korean Cheaters Follow Different Rules!

One important cultural difference that has been pointed out to me by many different Asian Operators in the US is how widespread cheating is.? The reason why cheating is more widespread in the US is not because Americans are smarter or Koreans are more honorable, but it is because Americans like to share their cheats while Koreans do not.

Let us take a look at how this one small fact has a large impact on how a company would operate in Korea versus US.? For example, a handful of customers discover that you could exploit the game by doing “XYZ.” In the US, these customers would actually share this information to either gain the respect of their peers or just be popular.? In a few days, this exploit would be in the forums and be abused throughout the community.? Because this has become a widespread problem, the game team must develop a patch to fix this issue as soon as possible and must make the customer support team monitor this issue.? If this issue is completely widespread, the customer support team would have to go though the logs of every player suspected of cheating.

On the other hand, in Korea, these customers would try to exploit this issue for as long as possible and keep the information to themselves.? The game team and customer support team will have a more difficult time to find this issue, but once they do, the damage will limited and easier to control.? Of course, if this does become widespread, the Korean game company will have the same issues as a North American game company does.? Game logs and the ability of customer service to analyze them quickly and accurately is the only to correct widespread cheating.

“Free” is a Free Pass to Cheating!

Exploiting the “Free”?in “Free2Play” games is easy in the US versus Korea.? Any time a US subscription based game does a “Free Trial” program; the company must create restrictions on the “Free Trial” account for this reason, to prevent cheating.? For example, 4 years ago I was working on an MMORPG that decided to do a “Free Trial” program to boost the user population.? After the first day, Marketing declared it a success, but it was actually a customer service nightmare.? Thousands of new accounts were being created because a few people figured out you could make as many free accounts you want and “gift” yourself the “in-game” money you get for creating an account.? This became widespread knowledge overnight as it was posted on all the forums and talked about in-game.

Furthermore, hackers have exploited the “Free”?in “Free2Play”?games by making thousands of accounts with illegal credit cards.? Even if you ban accounts used by hackers and exploiters, they can always make another free account.? In Korea, this exploitation will never occur because by law every game account is tied to one unique personal identifier which is similar to your SS# in the US.? When Korean companies come to the US, they are normal victims of these “Free” account schemes.? To combat these issues, publishers of “Free2Play” games have implemented the following solutions:

  • Limit gifting by either limiting the items that can be gifted, limiting the level when one can start gifting, or limiting gifting to paying players.
  • Limit spending by transaction amount and or volume of transactions
  • Limit account functionality until it is verified

Do not forget that every game is unique and every game needs its own form of regulations to correct for these issues.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Another issue that many Asian companies fail to notice or address properly is the importance of a tutorial or single player experience for Americans. ? Many “Free2Play” games in Korea are player versus player such as Audition, KartRider, Gunbound, Dungeon Fighter, and others.?? In?Korea, a lot of companies say that it is okay for newbie’s to get beaten by superior players, and some have ventured to say that free players are cannon fodder for good players to pawn.? In the US, this considered poor match making design and a horrible customer experience.

Unfortunately, most online players actually do not like competitive multiplayer experiences.? I have seen a lot of statistics on this, and one person I talked to mentioned that 80% of WoW players like to play by themselves.? In fact, most studies show that players do enjoy the social aspects of the multiplayer games such as chat and guilds, many prefer to quest by themselves and at their own pace. Some players us online games as a way to stay connected with their friends, but prefer to not play with people they meet “in-game”. ? Ironically, the must successful “Free2Play” games in the US are very single player based.? MapleStory, Runescape, Dofus, and Club Penguin does not require you to play with other but rather you kill npcs or play mini-games.? According to research I have conducted, the majority of players playing multiplayer games would like to be able to learn how to play the game first before playing with or against other players.? They do not want to get embarrassed or pawned over and over.

One of the keys to being a successful multiplayer game in the US is the ease of transition from actually learning to play to competing.? Another key is proper matchmaking system or skill-based match making system that a lot of Korean games do not employ.

Discuss?

The online game market is rapidly changing, but companies sometimes tend to repeat the mistakes of others.? Hopefully, this editorial helps people start to share their experiences.? If you completely disagree with what I said please say so or if there is another topic that interest you please e-mail the general e-mail list and hopefully we can address that top.

Editorial: About me, I have been working in the video game industry since 2002 and have specialized in the online space by chance.? Having worked in many different business functions of gaming from marketing, research, finance and business development and having talked with many different companies from start-ups to the big publishers, I have developed my own unique perspective regarding the online games market in North America.? Anything that I write is based on my own opinion and does not represent any company or group that I may or may not be affiliated with.

[NHN] Karos Online in Europe

nhnThe wait is over. NHN announced its first title in Europe, a fantasy MMORPG called Karos Online. The game?is currently being developed by Galaxy Gate (previously developed Last Chaos) in Korea and is scheduled for release this fall in English, followed by German and Turkish versions.

[K2 Network] GamersFirst launches ourWorld

ourWorldK2 Network added a new game, ourWorld (developed by FlowPlay), to its game portal site GamersFirst. According to the company’s press release, ourWorld is “a new breed of online entertainment that blends casual gaming and creative self expression in a rich and vibrant online world.” Please someone play that game and let me know how it goes.

[IGG] Adds Lords Online to line up

A US online game publisher, I Got Games (abbreviated IGG),?announced the launch of its next title, Lords Online. ?The company plans to begin the Alpha testing in Europe and North American region in August.