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Beyond Lineage: Jake Song Goes XL
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Beyond Lineage: Jake Song Goes XL


December 4, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3
 

Early on, it was decided that the Austin studio would be working on its own MMO, Tabula Rasa, and that Song would be brought in as an adviser. Song said that he felt like his opinions were respected, but early on, he understood that Long and Garriott were in charge of the project. That was fine with Song, who was already working on a 3D MMO to follow Lineage II, a project called Lineage Forever (which has since been re-tooled and retitled Aion.)

Within six months of the acquisition, Song said, management at the NCSoft office in Seoul began to raise objections. “They would say, 'It's too expensive,'” Song recalled. “And I insisted that no, it's cheap.” Having an established group of game developers in North America was key, he believed, for the company to have a chance to grow a market there. Having a network of contacts in the local game industry ready to help was key, Song said. “I saw that as a very good way to do business in the United States market,” he said, “was buying Richard Garriott.”

It was only two years later, however, that Song departed NCSoft to form XLGames, first with a few friends from the old Lineage team, then gradually growing. Song kept in touch with friends he'd made in the Austin studio, including Patrick Doane, who had worked on the Macintosh port of Lineage with him, and at one point decided to leave NCSoft and asked Song if he could open an XLGames office in Austin. Some of the development work on XLGames' first project, XLRacer, was shared by the Austin office, but a long time in beta testing and the growing pains of a new company made for a disappointing launch. “Miserable failure,” Song said, laughing.


XLRacer

The goal for XLGames' next project, he said, will be a game that has the same appeal in America as in South Asia. The new game is still in a “very early stage” of development, with “nothing concrete yet” in terms of its design. Appeasing both game markets won't be easy, Song said in an e-mail conversation following the meeting, even with experienced developers working for XLGames in both offices. For one, the Korean market is still more accepting than Americans of online game distribution, Song said.

“I think Americans believe that a game is low quality if there is no retail presence,” he said. “In Korea, online download is enough. No need to make a fancy package.”

Was there an opportunity to reach both markets before now? Maybe, Song wrote. “I think I had a chance to do it at NCSoft but I missed it. Maybe due to my laziness. I don't want to blame anyone else except me.”

So as before, Song is traveling back and forth from Seoul and Austin, only this time he's the CEO. The weather's nice in Austin, he said, and the traffic and pollution aren't as bad as in Seoul. The teams communicate weekly via video teleconference and update a Wiki-based trove of documentation. Both teams have traveled to visit the other's offices, and the plan is to grow and add employees gradually. Business partnerships are a possibility, Song said, but so is self-publishing.

“Who knows,” he said. “Maybe we'll become the biggest online game publisher in the world.”


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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