Korea Rising: Five Crucial Interviews
January 4, 2008 Page 3 of 21
Do you think that the existing consoles are set up now, or if they will be for the near future, for a microtransaction-type model?
SL: Yeah, I think that's possible. Microsoft, from my understanding, that's what they actually are pursuing. There's no reason why they can't do it.
Nexon is doing MapleStory DS. How far into development is that, if you know?
SL: We're planning to launch it by the middle of next year. We're aggressively developing it, and we're in very good shape.
I've seen videos of it. I talked to Calvin Yoo at the Austin Game Developer's Conference, and he was very surprised to learn that there were already videos of it out on the Internet. Will it actually be an MMO-type thing?
SL: You mean MapleStory DS? It's not an MMORPG kind of game. It's a typical kind of action role-playing game. It will have fairly different gameplay compared to the original version. It will be specifically adapted to the platform itself.
So more local play than networked play?
SL: Right. Single player. We have some features that support multiplayer, but the main feature will focus on single player.
I was actually talking to Gravity yesterday as well. They're bringing Ragnarok to DS, and you're bringing MapleStory to DS. And your target launches are somewhat similar. But I don't think they're as far along as you. It will be very interesting to see, because I feel like those will be the two rivals, in terms of... also, can you say who the developer is?
SL: You mean for MapleStory? We're developing in-house, in cooperation with Nintendo.
I see. Yeah, because a number of companies have said to me that in Korea, there's still not many developers used to making full, boxed end products. That kind of workflow and making complete products from the very beginning is very difficult. How have you tackled that?
SL: To be honest, we also don't have that much experience with the complete, packaged kind of game. Most of the developers have grown up playing the famous console games and things. The basic idea is that we obviously have learned a lot from the development process, and we still have to learn more. Nintendo has been very helpful in that perspective. We obviously made a lot of mistakes as well, but we are very keen to... MapleStory is one of our representative IP, and if we're launching it, we have to make it successful. We're doing our best to make it a high-quality standalone type of game.
And it's also very appealing to global markets, like the U.S. and Japan, because it's got the right kind of look. Are you going to launch that in other territories as well?
SL: Yeah, we'll have to see. We'll first launch it in Korea, then try to expand it into other markets like the States, Australia, Europe, and so on, where Nintendo has their own existence and establishment.
Actually, some other developers I spoke with said that Nintendo was not helpful at all. It's interesting to hear you say that. Their office is so new that maybe they just can't support as many people.
SL: I think the function that Nintendo Korea... I think the first duty is allocation of function to different entities within Nintendo. All their developing resources at Nintendo are located in Kyoto, in Japan. We're actually talking to both sides. While gaining subsistence for the developing side, we talked to the people from Kyoto, and in terms of business, we're also talking to Nintendo Korea.
That makes sense. So you're getting more of the actual hands-on help from the Kyoto side.
SL: Right. Also the relationship with Nintendo... I can't disclose specific deals with them, but for us, it was a special kind of deal. It's pretty much different from a mere third-party kind of contract.
It makes sense that they would want to. They're trying to make a big push in Korea, so it makes sense that they would try to partner up with someone and get a really good product out there from the Korean market, for the Korean market. How did the Counter-Strike deal come about?
SL: Counter-Strike, as you know, was once the market-dominating product in Korea. But because of its commercialization policy for PC cafes and things, it sort of lost its power in the market. But there are still many core fans of the product, and a lot of potential. It was successful enough through the Steam platform in the States and Europe and western territories, but in Asia, it didn't do as well there. There were piracy issues, and compared to playing online games, people weren't used to purchasing packaged products and playing the game. I think the interest of both parties were sufficiently met with each other, and I think that resulted in closing the deal.
Is it still developed by Valve?
SL: No. It's actually in co-development with Valve.
Interesting. So is the intent to launch in this market first?
SL: Yeah. Actually, the service will cover Korea, China, Japan, and Taiwan -- four territories in the Far East. The first service launch will be Korea.
That's interesting, because they have Counter-Strike in arcades now with Namco, I think, who is releasing it. They have their arcade Counter-Strike product, and then you'll launch your PC Counter-Strike product. It'll be interesting to see how that goes. I actually didn't even know that this was happening.
SL: We made an announcement back in July.
I'm just out of the loop! So here at Gstar, you have a very huge presence. It's very impressive. I was surprised to see it. You have this whole space we're in now, and you have the biggest space on the show floor. Why is that? Do you think a lot of consumers will come that you can influence, or is it to just show your power?
SL: We can't deny the fact that Gstar, in terms of the size of the show, is getting smaller and smaller year by year. That's what the market actually perceives. Since it's the biggest game show in Korea, and we're one of the largest online game companies in Korea, we have a lot to show, obviously. For gamers who would actually come to the show and have anticipation in terms of what new products will be released and how the market will turn out to be in the near future, I think it's worthwhile to let them know what we're doing and how dedicated we are to providing new entertainment to them.
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