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The Free Zone: Mostly Unconfirmed Odds & Ends

Columns By Richard Aihoshi on December 06, 2010

Mostly Unconfirmed Odds & Ends

The past week and a half or so have been marked by a heavier than usual dose of interesting but unverified reports. I thought some might tweak your curiosity, and thus decided to pick out a few to bring to your attention, even if they're not all directly related to free to play. But be warned... pretty much any and all of what follows could turn out to be smoke and mirrors.


Some more G-Star aftermath

As expected, information and opinions have continued to come my way about the big Korean show that took place three weeks ago. My knowledge of this year's event and my feel for what went on there will always be limited by the fact I didn't attend, which means my impressions should be taken accordingly. That said, a couple of things have come up to augment what I talked about in my previous column.

One is that ArcheAge, while shown in a prominent booth, didn't appear to generate the level of buzz that many might have anticipated. In closed beta domestically since this summer, XL Games' MMORPG has garnered considerable attention from Korean gamers and media over the past year or so, far more than in this hemisphere. Over there, it's often grouped in a current in-development "big three" with Tera and Blade & Soul. However, both of the others seemed to outshine it at G-Star.

That said, it's definitely still on my radar. The project is headed up by Jake Song, the main man behind Korea's first two major MMOGs, Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds and Lineage: The Bloodpledge. Interestingly, he has been quoted as saying the latter launched before it was complete and mature enough, and that ArcheAge will be better in this regard. Development has been under way for four years, so it looks like he's sticking to that, which *might* mean the low visibility is intentional until the game is closer to being ready.

The other interesting although not yet officially confirmed tidbit is that Aeria Games has apparently acquired the rights to publish GNi Games' Giga Slave in North America and western Europe. My knowledge of this title is quite limited; I understand it's a somewhat casual fighting MMOG with tanks, robots and other modern weapons, and that it's in open beta at this time. If the reports are true, we'll see and learn more starting with the official announcement.

Midnight curfew for young Korean MMO gamers?

The Chinese government has long been active in terms of controlling how MMOGs are operated. Now, it seems Korea may be getting into the act. According to unverified reports, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family are considering a bill that would prohibit anyone under age 16 from playing online games between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.

I assume this is meant to protect Korean kids in some manner. Since there would be some seemingly obvious and serious implementation issues such as authenticating actual player identities and ages, I wonder if such legislation will become reality. Unfortunately, I don't have tremendous faith in governments' understanding online gaming, witness how the previous US administration's attempts to address poker.


Rift looking toward Korea?

Since the theme today seems to involve unconfirmed reports relating to Korea, here's a third item that fits the mould. I understand Trion Worlds CEO Lars Buttler was over there earlier this month to meet with various publishers. If my memory serves me, he lived in Seoul for a while, which would lead me to assume he has a personal feel for the market. So, if he thinks Rift can succeed, perhaps it has a shot, which would be in stark contrast to the less than sparkling track record compiled by there by US-made MMOGs.

Activision Blizzard seeking Asian opportunities?

If you were one of the video game industry's two giant publishers and had a war chest filled to overflowing with a couple of billion dollars, would you be looking eastward for investment possibilities, especially since archrival EA has already taken major steps in this direction? It's reasonable to think you might, which is probably a key reason rumors reflecting this theme keep popping up, the latest being that talks are under way with at least one potential acquisition target.

To the best of my knowledge, Activision Blizzard has never given any official indication that there might actually be some fire below the puffs of smoke we see every few months. Accordingly, the likelihood of anything happening, especially in the short term, still seems a longshot. However, that's not the same as impossible, so while I'm not about to bet my lunch money, neither will I be completely shocked if something does occur within the coming months.

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 every Monday.
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