What is your perception of the Korean market right now? I've heard a lot of different ideas about how it's going. Some people say there are so many people bringing out MMOs right now, and there's going to be a big crash. I've heard some other people say that it's unstoppable, and the market will just keep growing. What do you think right now?
SL: I would actually like to know that! (laughs) The market has actually been a pioneer kind of existence in the world. Before it even formed a decent console market, the market had been developed by the online gaming industry, and so the characteristics might be slightly different from existing western markets or in Japan. Apparently people usually say that it's pretty much saturated, and conditions are getting more severe year by year.
Why do you think the market grew up so fast with online games before console was even fully developed?
SL: There had been a lot of creative developers who had the talent, ideas, and creativity to develop competitive content and games. Since the console game market had not been mature enough for them to develop new titles and new game products inside Korea, I think that resulted in... not failure, necessarily, but slower growth of the console game market. As you know, we developed the world's first graphic MMORPG back in 1996, and also we had a huge boom in terms of the IT industry in the late 1990s. That had actually provided the perfect condition for modern game companies to grow, and we had been one of the leading companies in Korea. All those conditions combined, I think, provided sufficient condition for the market to grow.
What do you think of that from the player's side? One thing I've heard is that a lot of people are using MMOs not so much as a fun thing to play, but as their job, by buying and selling items and things.
SL: The core users are very loyal to a game, and we can't complain if that's their way of playing, right? Actually, MMORPGs these days are so sophisticated, and you can do a lot of things. It's not just playing a game. You can conduct missions and stuff like that. It's also effective means for socializing with people, and making new friends, and things like that. I think it's an interesting phenomenon.
In terms of your console development, aside from the DS, is that with an eye on the western market, then? You said that Nexon is now working on console development, so since the market doesn't exist much here, are you more focusing on that market?
SL: First of all, referring back to my saying we're developing console games now, that doesn't necessarily mean that we are seriously focusing on that console gaming field. We're just trying to develop our games -- the DS version of MapleStory, and the 360 version.
So there's a 360 version also of MapleStory?
SL: Yeah, that's been announced here. That doesn't necessarily mean we're converting our business direction to the console gaming field. Since we have a lot of content that's been successful in the online gaming market, we're trying to figure out what possibilities we may have in other fields, such as console games, animation, merchandising, and all those related types of products. As a result of that, if it can actually help us expand our users in western markets, then that would be a perfect result.