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Could Russia's Monetization Model Work Here?

Catherine Daro Posted:
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When it comes to the development of AAA titles in the MMO-space, most think of the US, Korea or China. In recent years, however, the number of big development studios has grown in Russia. My.com has partnered with Obsidian for both Armored Warfare and Skyforge. Wargaming brought the world the first tank-shooter in the form of World of Tanks and will soon unleash World of Warships. Gaijin took Wargaming’s idea a step further with combined air and land combat in War Thunder. And the list goes on with the point being that MMO development in Russia is alive and well.

In addition to developers creating their own regional titles, there are a number of publishers that are bringing games to  the Russian MMO community including Innova, Mail.ru, gamigo and Genome Games, to name a few. Each publisher is seeking to bring a game to its audience that is tailored to the unique wishes of the Russian community.

Enter GameNet.ru and its work on Black Desert in conjunction with PearlAbyss. In recent weeks, several diaries have been posted on the official page to show the community what progress is being made on the game and how Black Desert is being tailored to suit the things the community most desires.

Hardcore at the Cost of Balance?

Gamenet.ru is committed to making Black Desert a game that its community will appreciate. To do so, producers are actively involved in debates about how best to do that. One thing that has been mentioned frequently is making the game more “hardcore” for the Russian community, much more so than its Korean counterpart. On fan sites, however, there is the idea that hardcore only means making leveling slower and grindy, rather than making game play truly more difficult in terms of battle, mechanics and strategy.

In addition, several game play mechanics have been debated amongst the publishing team members including trading and experience gains among others. Again, debate rages in the community and many have urged Gamenet.ru to leave the game as is since it appears that every change made makes the game less and less like an MMO. The feeling is that PearlAbyss understands the game’s balance and changing things like experience gains, for instance, could fundamentally alter the delicate equilibrium.

Sub & F2P servers

One of the most interesting statements from Gamenet.ru is its willingness to provide players with both free-to-play and subscription servers.  They are obviously committed to being flexible with these different server configurations that respond the concerns of a community that is generally weary of the in-game stores.

To demonstrate their commitment to keeping Black Desert fun and by way of responding to what has been said by future players, GameNet reassures that they are categorically against the notion that the game will be in any way pay-to-win. All items and services provided in the in-game shop on free-to-play servers, producers have said, will not affect the game balance and can be purchased for real-world cash. In addition, players on subscription servers will be able to purchase the same items for in-game currency.

What hasn’t been discussed, though it is obviously something that will need to be addressed, is whether or not players will be able to move existing characters between F2P and P2P servers and what potential impact that could have on game balance. It is a question worthy of consideration.

After All is Said & Done

All of the above is, as can be surmised, purely speculation. While all of it has been stated in one way or another in producer diaries or via subscriber newsletters, GameNet producers seem to be in flux about many systems and localizations which feels somewhat strange as closed beta testing is nearing, at least by what little information has been published.

No matter what, the Russian version of Black Desert is set to come out prior to the North American and European versions. Its closed beta is estimated to be held later this month or next, followed closely by the open beta.

It's possible that this is an experiment in dual monetization models and that its success or failure is being closely watched by Daum and PearlAbyss as they consider publishing in NA and the EU. If successful, it’s likely that we could see something similar in these regions. 

Do you think this experience will be successful for the Russian community? Furthermore, if it is, would you like to see it brought to the North American and European version(s) of Black Desert? If so, what type of server would you prefer to play on and why?


Catherine Daro