When I first heard about ArcheAge, I personally salivated at the idea of a hybrid sandbox, and while that's still the case, the lack of information regarding Trion World's publication of ArcheAge is a bit worrying. A number of reports have noted how, in an effort to be something awesome, some aspects of Archeage seem to be half-baked. At the very least, the game appears to skew slightly towards compulsive play rather than accessible gaming.
Trion Worlds has kept quiet since the announcement that it would publish the English version of ArcheAge in a number of territories. James "Elrar" Nichols explained that "the strategic rollout and execution of our plans needs to be calculated and concise" because of ArcheAge's status as both a new intellectual property (which means it has no safety net) and a Korean MMORPG (which means it comes with certain cultural nuances and stigmas).
While I'm worried that Trion Worlds may not be able to deliver excellence with ArcheAge, because of how publishing is different from creating and managing the content of an MMORPG, I do know that the Trion Worlds connection can be a powerful sword with which to make ArcheAge a formidable contender in the MMO arena, if it is wielded properly.
If the above-linked accounts are to be believed, Trion Worlds has to make sure it's covered its bases when they begin creating momentum for ArcheAge. Here are some things Trion Worlds will likely need to consider in order to make ArcheAge something great for English-speaking audiences while protecting their brand name as a quality MMO maker.
In that same forum post I quoted Elrar, he also mentioned something very important. He said, "Right now we're focused on climbing the hill and planning how much we can make the pendulum swing. We're going to need to take all of your great grassroots momentum, couple it with world class branding & marketing, and deliver a clear message about what ArcheAge has to offer and how it's different from your standard MMO fare."
When Trion Worlds finally begins using its clout to explain ArcheAge to the English-speaking world, it has to dispel the stigma of the phrase, "another Korean MMO." If Trion Worlds is smart, it will frame its discussions of Archeage in reference to how this new game is not only a new IP and a new world, but also a new world that does not have the hindrances that made other Korean MMOs sufficiently niche or otherwise lackluster.
Trion Worlds has to address existing English reports of ArcheAge, instead of ignoring them. It also has to be upfront about what Trion Worlds can and cannot do to the IP, and prepare for how people will take the limitations that XL Games may impose on Trion Worlds as publisher to maintain XL Games' vision of the Archeage IP.
The Largest Niche
While I have mentioned in a Devil's Advocate Column that I think there is room for a number of niche MMOs in the gaming sphere, ArcheAge is a supposed to be a big-budget MMORPG and cannot afford a small niche. If Trion Worlds and XL Games want to do well with ArcheAge, they have to rightfully address any accurate accounts in English reports and work towards gaining and maintaining the largest niche it can create.
What does this mean?
Simply put, If XL Games and Trion Worlds are planning on bringing this game to Western Audiences, known complaints from both the current audience and the desires of the particular niche the two companies wish to engage in the future have to be looked at, analyzed, accounted for, and then fixed for the English ArcheAge version.
If reports from Korea are saying combat feels off or not particularly visceral or engaging, these have to be remedied for the Trion Worlds release. If the economy encourages goat farming to min-max profits, the two companies have to address this properly. If someone is saying the game's sound effects are insanity-inducing, then by all means, fix it.
The Yoshida Approach
The other thing that needs to be taken care of once information comes flooding in is that ArcheAge may want to consider a Naoki Yoshida approach to public relations. By this I mean that the producer of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has become a charismatic individual whose approach to supporting and building the reputation of a game that has been tarnished... and ArcheAge needs someone to be that visible as well.
The social media age is slowly being referred to as an age of authenticity, where PR speak is distrusted and people who are open and honest about the good and bad of a product one has a stake in are appreciated. I feel that ArcheAge's best bet is to not only have Trion Worlds' PR blitz, but a spokesperson who understands gamers' fears for the MMO industry, and who can honestly tell gamers if ArcheAge is going to be the game that will serve their needs.
A World Made by Us
I honestly believe ArcheAge will be a good home for many gamers. That said, if Jake Song was truly serious about ArcheAge's motto being "A world made by you," then it has to intrinsically understand the community it will now appeal to. Without that understanding, ArcheAge could very well fall by the wayside, which would hurt the MMO industry as a whole greatly. Here's to hoping Trion Worlds and XL Games brandish their IP properly and make an effective appeal to gamers' hearts.
Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and The Secret World columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.