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The Free Zone: Global News Galore

Columns By Richard Aihoshi on May 17, 2010

Global News Galore

When seen from a North American perspective, the global MMOG space is kind of like an iceberg in that the visible portion is substantially less than the whole. A major reason for this is we aren't presented with much news unless it's directly pertinent to this region. It's certainly understandable that publications tend to focus on the games, the kinds of information and the types of articles likely to draw more readers within their target audiences, which are pretty geographical in nature. To be fair, it's not completely their fault - it's not difficult to find companies that emphasize these same areas.

One thing this means is that there's a lot more going on around the world than meets the eye, especially for those of us whose interests go beyond the games themselves to include development, international markets and the factors that shape and drive them both. Last time out, I honed in on Nexon, which has been particularly prominent of late, so it seemed fitting to follow up by looking at some recent news involving other companies.

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NCsoft joins the acquisition spree

Hot on the heels of Nexon buying a majority stake in Ndoors, we learned last week that NCsoft has purchased 65 percent of Nextplay, an 80-person studio widely known - in Korea if not here - for developing casual titles, the most successful being Crazy Arcade. I didn't spot much detail about the deal, but since Aion plus the two Lineages brought in nearly 90 percent of NCsoft's 2009 revenue, it's easy enough to see that the company would like to broaden its total audience.

This wouldn't be the first attempt. In Korea, I recall a previous one about four or five years ago involving, among others, an online tennis game. That initiative wasn't very successful. Over here, Dungeon Runners didn't make much of a mark either. But in today's market, I can definitely appreciate that the casual sector's rapid growth rate and huge potential are difficult if not impossible to ignore.

As a side note, I'm also very interested to see what the other major Korean publishers including Neowiz (partly owned by EA), NHN, CJ Internet and HanbitSoft will do to keep pace.

Mythos beta testing continues

Did someone mention HanbitSoft? You may remember that after some legal wrangling a couple of years ago, the company gained control of both Hellgate: London, which it had published, and also of Mythos, which was still in development. As of last Friday, the latter began what has been referred to as its final beta test. It's scheduled to end on Wednesday, presumably followed by commercial release.

From what I've seen, the game didn't knock anyone dead in the previous phases, so I'm watching to see if it will fare better this time around. As well, it has been quite a while since I played a far earlier version, I'm curious to learn what has happened to it since then.

Hellgate too, for that matter. At its best, it was a lot of fun, but it was also highly inconsistent, largely due to some major balancing and level design issues.

Screenshot

Seoyugi open beta

CJ Internet has just completed an open beta for its latest title, a colorful side-scroller that has been likened to MapleStory. While I admit I don't know much about this one, I've seen a few indications that it's quite highly anticipated in Korea. As to plans for release here in North America, I can only guess at this time.

Tencent's rapid growth continues

China's largest publisher released its Q1 financials last week, and as expected, the company carried forward its rapid growth from 2009. Without getting into a lot of numbers, online game revenue was up 30 percent compared to the same period a year ago. The big question I have at the moment is whether the company will crack the $1 billion mark in 2010. An intriguing possibility, although it seems something of a stretch, is that it will surpass Blizzard to take over the top rank among online publishers.

Tencent's latest game-specific news is the fourth closed beta for the 2D MMORPG Fantasy World, which is supposed to begin tomorrow.

This week's MMOG trivia

What are the two factions players can join in Allods Online, and the three races available in each?

Answer

The Free Zone The Free Zone Editorials
Richard Aihoshi has been writing about MMOGs since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. As a result, he has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.

He is the former Editor of RPG Vault and his column, focusing on free to play MMOs, appears on MMORPG.com every Monday.
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