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Interview with NCosft's New President, Chris Chung

Community Manager Laura Genender recently had the opportunity to speak with Chris Chung, the new President of NCsoft. He fills us in on the future, both near and far, of NCsoft's wide range of products.

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Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Chung, newly appointed President of NCSoft North America.  Assuming the position previously held by Robert Garriott, Chung is more than qualified with plenty of NCSoft and other experience in the tech industry.

Chung entered the industry in 2003 as the business manager for ArenaNet, the company behind GuildWars.  Chung did a brief stint as Vice President of NCSoft’s Publishing Unit in South Korea, then came back to the North America team.  Since 2004, Chris has served as Vice President of game publishing for NCSoft North America. 

During our talk I was able to get the scoop on the NCSoft game line up: how the last year went, and what’s planned for the future!

Tabula Rasa

After 6 years in development and a total scrap of the original game, Tabula Rasa’s launch was a big excitement for NCSoft this year.  I asked Chung how the game was doing, and he said that it was progression well – he is looking forward to the upcoming game update and the Japan launch in the first half of 2008.  Half of UO’s subscribers were from Japan, and he anticipates much success there with the Garriott followers!

Tabula Rasa will continue to see more free content updates; further down the road we might see a retail presence with larger expansions, but nothing there is concrete.

Dungeon Runners

The other NCSoft release this year was Dungeon Runners, their first free to play MMO (with a subscription option).  Chung referred to DR as “The little engine that could” – while the game is backed by a very small design team, they’ve introduced a great sense of humor to the industry.

The most recent news for the DR team was the introduction of advertisements for free players… while somewhat annoying, this allowed them to open up more content to the non-subscribers.

Aion

Of the upcoming NCSoft games, Aion absolutely has my attention – it’s absolutely gorgeous and reminds me of my days in Lineage II!  The good news is we’re looking at a late (second half) 2008 release – the bad news is, Chung couldn’t tell me much more.

Exteel

The other upcoming NCSoft title is Exteel, a third person shooter game where you play as a mech.  Like Dungeon Runners, this game is free to play for the majority of content.  But instead of a small subscription fee for extra content, Exteel supports a micro transaction system.  We should see Exteel releasing in the US in the first half of 2008.

Lineage… III?!

No, not yet – but soon!  Chung told me that NCSoft’s main concern was assembling the right team to tackle this project.  Said Chung, “This is the year that we are assembling that team.”  On the Lineage II front, the recently release Kamael expansion has done very well, bringing many players back to L2 to try out the new race.

City of Heroes and Villains

The big City of Heroes/Villains news in 2007 was the NCSoft buyout of the CoH/V game and IP from Cryptic.  For any City of fans, don’t worry about a radical change in development mindset; the entire COH team came on board when NCSoft opened up a new COH studio in December.  In fact, the team will be expanding soon!

COH will continue on the same development cycle, said Chung, but they want to take the size and quality of expansions up a notch.  “[We are] continuing to grow this fantastic franchise!”

Guild Wars

The Guild Wars model, so far, has been a series of individual games that interact in the endgame PVP.  The latest Guild Wars creation, though, was an expansion: Eye of the North.

I asked Chung whether this was the new future of Guild Wars, making expansions instead of separate game worlds.  While he didn’t have much news on the form of future content, he was excited that the ArenaNet team is working hard on Guild Wars II!  Content updates will continue, of course, for the original Guild Wars during/past GWII development/launch.

NCPass?

For the past year (or longer) I’ve been asking NCSoft when they’ll let us pay one monthly fee (obviously higher than 14.99$) for access to their suite of games.  The answer is always “soon” and sadly – it is again!  “[We] should have something to announce this year,” said Chung.  “There isn’t anything really holding it back, but timing, making sure our infostructure supports it, and we want to make sure it’s the right thing for our customers.”

Spacetime Studios

It wasn’t the most comfortable topic, but I felt it worth mentioning – just last week NCSoft dropped their publishing deal with Spacetime Studios, working on an undisclosed MMO since March of 06.  “Unfortunately, we do not have a pot of gold that is generating money every day,” said Chung.  “We decided that we needed to have a little more focus in our portfolio.”

This doesn’t mean the NC lineup will be shrinking; there are 8 other titles in development, in-house and with other studios.  We should receive some information on them in the second half of this year or early next year.

Play Station 3

NCSoft has partnered up with Sony and is beginning to develop some titles for the PS3!  I asked Chung if we’d be seeing City of Heroes, Tabula Rasa, or one of the other NC titles on the console soon.  Chung answered, “The game needs to feel right on a console.”  While some of the current NCSoft IPs might be present on the PS3, straight port is likely not the answer.  Keep on the look out, too, for some entirely new NCSoft IPs.

 

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