It has been a while since I devoted a column to the state of the industry in Korea. Recently, I've been casting my eye over there somewhat more than usual, mainly because G-STAR (Game Show & Trade, All-Round) will take place in a few weeks. For anyone unfamiliar with this event, it's that country's key annual industry affair, combining a huge consumer exposition with a trade-only area. The former is on a scale we don't see here in North America; last year's total attendance for four days was more than 280,000.
The latter is also sizable, and arguably at least as important. Its focus is to facilitate business between domestic and international companies. Accordingly, it will pull in hundreds of publishers, developers et al from around the world. We can be sure quite a few deals will be signed and/or announced there, possibly adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars, and predominantly associated with the online game sector.
I'm always interested to see what titles are shown and highlighted at G-STAR, especially the ones that have little or no visibility here. The difference is often a matter of timing. Since games tend to launch domestically well before their western versions, the Korean publicity campaigns happen earlier. Looking back 11 months, the "big three" that got the most attention at the show were Blade & Soul, TERA and ArcheAge. I look forward to seeing what will be in the spotlight this year.
In this regard, companies have started to reveal their line-ups, and the speculating is also well under way. Of course, with a couple of weeks still to go until G-STAR opens its doors on November 10, we're sure to see more news about the companies and games that will be there this year. What follows is an incomplete summary of what I've seen so far, only part of which is official.
Nexon has announced six projects it will bring. Intriguingly enough, I can't say I know much at all about any of them. The company is debuting Age of Hero (sic), said to be an oriental fantasy MMORPG with a "revenge and friendship system", and Project: Reload, a side-scrolling action shooter. The others are a recently launched MOBA offering called Cyphers, the turn-based strategy RPG Epic of the Three Kingdoms, a social adaptation of the Atlantica property, and the squad-based Space Tanks for smartphone gamers.
It seems that Webzen will bring at least one new game. Little is known about ArchLord II. The sequel is thought to be PvP-centric, possibly even more so than its predecessor, and will apparently feature a class-free system, affording very open character development. MU 2 may be even more of a mystery; some observers feel it will be shown, but I've not seen anything confirming this. One thing that interests me about this one is the question as to whether the property, which played a key role in opening up the Asian market, has the potential to regain some of its former prominence. Since the company severed its connection with Red 5 quite recently, the latter will now exhibit FireFall on its own.
Another western-made game I expect to see is Guild Wars 2. That said I'm curious as to how prominently it will be exhibited. The level of player anticipation is different there - I imagine it's substantially lower - because the original wasn't nearly as popular as it was in the west. So, will it have the same presence in the NCsoft booth as it does at shows in this hemisphere? If I had to bet, I'd say not. Blade & Soul seems likely to make its third appearance amid rumors its launch may be pushed back to next year. And something only known by the presumed working title Project C may debut. Adding interest value to this possibility, it's the latest endeavour of Jake Song, the man behind Lineage.
For more western content, CJ Entertainment will have Rift. It will also exhibit an online FPS called S2 that rates to be playable in closed beta by then. According to reports, the company will also debut MMORPG Bloody Hunter, action MMORPG Core Fight, and another shooter, TSD.
At a private event held a few days ago, Neowiz reportedly showed five games, so it seems reasonable to assume they'll all be at G-STAR. The two most interesting are the MMORPGs, Bless and EIN. There's also a third-person shooter, Dizzel, which rates to get a solid push since it's nearing open beta, plus baseball and fishing projects. You now know almost as much about all of these as I do. However, considering the company is one of Korea's top publishers and that it has one of the four or five largest booths, I'd have to guess it won't be quiet during the show.
And yes, Blizzard will be front and center with what may be the largest space. As to whether it will show or announce anything new so soon after BlizzCon, I tend to think not. It'd make G-STAR 2011 even more interesting though.