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LGS: Webzen's Armstrong: 'Don't Try To Clone  WoW '

LGS: Webzen's Armstrong: 'Don't Try To Clone WoW'

October 4, 2006 | By Frank Cifaldi

October 4, 2006 | By Frank Cifaldi
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Webzen America's Cindy Armstrong's speech at the 2006 London Game Summit, titled "Competing in the Online Entertainment Business," addressed issues such as player loyalty, competing with (but not reproducing) World of Warcraft, and the innovative microtransaction systems coming out of Korea.

One of the best approaches to developing an online game, Armstrong said, is to first learn from the mistakes of others. Asheron's Call, Armstrong was told by one of the game's developers, did not have a billing system until three days before launch.

World War II Online required 60 megabytes to be loaded, at a time when a majority of its users had only a 56k modem. It took an average of three hours to load. And finally, Asheron's Call 2, a game highly dependent on user-to-user chatting, launched with instability in its chatting system.

"Online gamers around the world are very unforgiving," said Armstrong. "They try a game once and if they don't like it, they won't come back and try it again." The best example of this, she said, is LucasArts' Star Wars Galaxies.

"The game today is very different than it was when it launched," she said. "There are features there that players wanted at launch, but they won't come back to it now."

Armstrong quoted numbers from a recent DFC Intelligence report, which showed current and predicted growth of digital distribution. According to the report, digital download revenue in 2001 was estimated at $32 million in the U.K. and $156 million in the United States. In 2005 this jumped to $365 million in the U.K. and $1.035 billion in the U.S., and in 2011, these numbers are predicted to jump to $2.9 billion and $4.7 billion, respectively.

"The key [to successful digital distribution] is being innovative," said Armstrong. "Don't try to recreate WoW, you're not going to do it, and that seems to be what the trend is. If you do that, why would I leave the game I already invested a lot of time and energy into?"

Armstrong's favorite example of innovative MMO transactions comes from Korean developer Nexon's Kart Rider. In the game, she said, players can literally throw feces at competing players, which sticks to their carts and looks unpleasant.

"You don't want to drive around with shit on you," she said.

The solution is for a player to acquire solvent, which can clean the mess off of their karts. This is, of course, acquired via a microtransaction.

"This is why I'm not a designer, I'd never think about this," she said. "It's brilliant."

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