Nexon Corporation, a company that has had incredible growth via mergers and acquisitions in the past 10 years, has recently declared their plans to take a step back into the shoes of their previous ‘developer’ times.
Nexon held ‘Nexon Developer Conference 2014’ on the 27th, where its founder Kim Jungjoo, CEO Park Jiwon, and Nexon Japan’s CEO Owen Mahoney had the stage. It was here that the three CEOs of Nexon spoke of the company’s past and plans for the future.
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The talk was led by the founder Kim Jungjoo, who began the conference with a bittersweet joke saying “Nexon is a great corporation. Nexon is probably the only company in the world that started out as a game developer that survived for 10 years without a new title.”
CEO Park Jiwon answered his jests by explaining that Nexon was able to grow thanks to cooperations with other companies and acquisitions, rather than new titles of its own. In truth, Nexon maintained its success in the past few years not with new titles, but with live operation of already existing titles such as <Dungeon and Fighter> and with acquisitions such as Neople and GameHi.
However, this does not mean that there were no titles of its own. <Counterstrike Online>, which was co-developed with Valve, had started the ‘Zombie Mode’ hype and DevCat’s <Vindictus> still holds many faithful players.
Park speculated that the reason behind the lack of new titles, despite these mentioned successes, was the incredible amount of success that they had with <Dungeon and Fighter> and <Maple Story>. It was due to the stability and large success with these games that, rather than develop and publish new titles, they kept on focusing on the live services.
And after the installment of the Japanese office, the pressure only rose under these large numbers to live up to. Finally, the direction of the company was deemed a critical weakness when the mobile gaming wave hit the world sometime in 2012. The company’s lack of experience in new title developments and absence from the gaming trend kept it from adapting to the fast mobile market.
After 2012, Nexon repeated “the process of benchmarking and canceling a project every 6 months.” The company’s insistence on simply following the trend and inability to adapt to the ever changing market repeatedly caused numerous projects to fail.
Bringing Back the ‘Developer DNA’
What was Nexon like 10 years ago? Kim referred to Nexon’s status 10 years ago as the ‘Golden Age.’ Many internally developed games were published, and many of them were received well. While they mentioned that the industry itself was in the process of developing then, their overall verdict is that the company differed very much compared to Nexon during the last 10 years.
Upon receiving the question on what the key factor was during the company’s golden age, Nexon Japan’s Owen Mahoney quickly chose the company’s working atmosphere and environment as his answer. Having joined Nexon back in 2000 when he had been invited to Korea by Kim, Mahoney commented on the atmosphere of the company back then: “There were many creative games being developed, and even if some of them were canceled, they did not delay in jumping onto another development. Unlike other large Western corporations back then, all of Nexon’s workers focused on one thing: Fun.”
Mahoney views the world’s gaming industry, including Nexon, to be in recession. Western console game developers are trying to distinguish themselves by focusing on higher end graphics rather than creative and original system, and Facebook and mobile are choosing games and IPs that have already been successful to create ports. Fresh and creative games such as <Minecraft> and <Eve Online>, which Mahoney used as examples, are definitely lacking in comparison to the rest of the games out on market.
It’s because of these reasons that the CEOs of Nexon and Nexon Japan have made ‘bringing back the DNA of Nexon 10 years ago’ as their immediate outlooks. According to Park, they are “speaking with the developers of <Kingdom of the Wind> and <Tactical Commanders> and others in order to come up with the best course of action.”
Nexon consists of total of 2,000 developers with 1,500 in Korea and 500 in Japan.
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Nexon and its subsidiaries currently have 30 games in development, with six of the lot being developed as new online games and over 20 as mobile games.
Nexon’s VP Jung Sangwon emphasized that the new online games will not be following the trend of the games already out there. Jung pointed out <Maple Story 2> and <Durango> as the examples of the direction that their new online game development is heading towards.
<Maple Story 2> has tried numerous different approaches at the game system despite the fact that there already is an original, and <Durango> stands apart from the crowd as unique concepts of dinosaurs and survival RPG outlines the game.
Nexon will also reinforce its mobile gaming department, and its strategy is simple: the games will be ‘unique games that have not yet been introduced to the market,’ and if similar games already exist, ‘the game will offer more content and fun than its competitors.’ Nexon plans to take advantage of the short development time characteristic of mobile games to challenge itself in areas where it hasn’t been able to so far.
Park commented while talking of the mobile gaming strategy: “So far, unfitting of its size, Nexon has failed multiple times on the mobile front. From now on, we will not be following the trend that others have set before us, but rather do what we are good at to lead the trend. In saying this, not only will we do our best with our 20 internally developed mobile games, but if the games meet our standards, we will cooperate with developers outside the company in order to bring the best mobile games to the market.”