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The Complexities Of Launching Aion
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The Complexities Of Launching Aion

October 1, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

There's an issue in the market, and you've alluded to it. The markets are sort of breaking down into a lot of free to play games right now -- people are really pushing them -- and then premium subscription games, which Aion is. How do you see the room for subscription games and the room for competition there?

BK: Yeah. I think the other market is still maturing. We had the late '90s and the early 2000s, where everyone was trying to figure out what exactly an MMO was, and everyone was trying all these things. Every year, there's something different that someone's trying.

Most of the time, the people that are successful with something are somebody that just put out a good quality product. They well planned from the beginning their business model and their product. That's what we're doing with Aion. We set out from the beginning with this game and our business model in mind and what we're going to do. As long as we deliver a high-quality product, which we will, we think we'll be fine.

That's a fair point. But it does seem like there have been some fall off on the major launches. Warhammer closed a lot of servers not that long after starting. Age of Conan stumbled majorly. I'm not asking you to theorize what happened with other products, but what kind of planning did you do to make sure you've got that solidity to compete?

BK: I think that some of it goes back to the unique advantage that we do get to launch a little bit after Korea, right? A game that has been on the market for almost 10 or so months when we launch provides huge advantages.

Our pressure was to launch, but we needed to make sure that we launched a product that was very high quality. I think we went that extra step. I think we probably could have had a high quality product maybe a couple months ago, but I still think that we want it to be super high quality and not take a chance because you only launch once, and it's very hard to recover from a bad launch.

So, for us, it was better to wait and go with that very high quality later on. We've had three major updates since launch. I think most people say every MMO should always launch with its first major update, so lucky for us, we have three.

Have there been any actual substantive changes from the Asian version? Or did you all plan it so effectively that that's not really the case?

BK: I think it was adding versus changing. I mean, we changed things like the default control scheme -- I'd say "added", because it's true. We've added channels for different languages, but Korea is going to use that feature as well. We've added more Western faces inside the character creation, but Korea, we're going to use that as well. They'll be using those faces. We've added quests and instances.

You don't necessarily want to hold out because they might be appealing to people in that territory. For instance, we have a vendor in the game where you can and buy like the traditional garb for each territory. Our garb is in the works right now, but you can go and buy a kimono from Japan or you can buy a hanbok.

It's like those things are so cool, to show this is a global game, and we're all together and a part of this. They'll be able to buy ours over there. It's not like "ours". It's all about providing, and letting each market determine what they want to use and how they want to promote it. We're not going to have a giant web page with a kimono on it, but at the same time, we don't want to deny people the ability to wear a cool kimono in a game, because I think it's really cool.

I think that's intelligent, because in the end, you can try as much as you want to predict or cater to user behavior, but you don't actually know what will stick.

BK: Aion has very Asian parts to it. I think that if you start suppress that, that's not a good thing, necessarily, because we have a lot in our audience who will really enjoy those particular aspects. For instance, the visuals. Can we show different things on the front of our website or page to appeal to Western audience? Yes. But should we still have that option to make the cool looking anime figure in the character creator? Yeah, because that's going to be a large portion of our audience, people that are attracted to Asian games.

If you think about it, if you look at Square Enix, they can make a success out of retaining their identity. Look at Final Fantasy. It has a huge audience in the West despite the fact that it does retain its identity.

BK: Right. And we think that audience will actually like Aion.

It is definitely an interesting question, though, because it's all coming to the fore in what is a huge launch for your company. This is really NCsoft's biggest launch since Tabula Rasa.

BK: Yeah. I'd say it's pretty big for us. We have some things in our past. We really want to do this right, and we've learned a lot. It's very important for a company.

It's somewhat a competition thing, too. Korea launched, and they're kicking a lot of ass, so is Taiwan, and so is Japan, and China as well. We all want to do our best with the products in our market. We can't let anybody down, right?

I do feel like this game has gotten a lot more buzz than Lineage did.

BK: You're totally right. As an example for closed beta, I planned on having two servers for each territory, North America and Europe, and we ended up with six just to accommodate the influx of users from our preorders, our giveaways, and all that stuff. It really took off. I think people noticed the quality. They said, "You know what? This game's ready, and it's not even launching yet. And they're putting that extra effort in."

On top of that, we go into our Westernization and localization, and they start reading, and they're like, "Hey, this isn't just weird translated text that doesn't make all that much sense. This is a compelling story written by a Western writer." I think it really has taken off. I think people really want to have some high quality MMO choices, and I think that's what Aion is about. It's going to be out there as another high quality MMO choice for users to play.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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