While it may sometimes feel like all the action in the free to play space is happening in China, that's not the case. There's plenty going on elsewhere too, including here in the western hemisphere. But during the past week or so, my main focus was on Korea, and specifically on Nexon, which is continuing its aggressive push to become an even larger online publisher. The company is definitely one of the heavyweights in the category already. Global revenue grew 30 percent last year to more than $535 million, of which two-thirds came from outside the country.
Early last week, Nexon revealed the acquisition of 67 percent of Ndoors, the developer and publisher of Atlantica Online. The announcement I saw did not state whether the deal has actually been finalized by clearing any the regulatory requirements or other potential hurdles. In fact, it was rather confusing in that it said "acquired" in one spot and "will acquire" in another. Curiously, while I only took a quick look, I spotted nothing about this on either company's website.
In any case, it seems Ndoors will now operate as a Nexon subsidiary. Although the price paid was not revealed, there has been speculation it may have been as much as 200 billion won (approx. $170 million US). This seems possible since it would be neither cheap nor out of line relative to the former's 2009 sales and profit of 40.5 billion won and 15.6 billion won respectively.
One interesting fact stated that was that 72 percent of said revenue came from outside Korea. Since Atlantica only entered China last summer and Europe last fall, it would appear the game has done pretty well in other markets, the most obvious of which is North America. Ndoors' other owned properties include Luminary: Rise of the Goonzu and Corum Online.
A couple of days ago, it came out that Nexon is now courting GameHI, the studio that developed Dekaron, which launched domestically in 2005; a version was later adapted for this market and released under the name 2Moons. However, the company's top title is Sudden Attack, an online FPS that ranked as the most popular game for over two years in Korea, where this quasi-MMO genre arguably surpassed MMORPGs for a period of time. Nexon's own entry, which has been released here, is Combat Arms, coincidentally the creation of another acquisition a few years ago, Doobic Studios.
These news items added to what was already shaping up as a big 2010 for Nexon. Among other things, its socially-oriented Nexon Star, which has been eagerly awaited in Korea since being announced in 2008, entered open beta there two weeks ago. I don't recall seeing any official word on plans for the title here. For what it's worth, my guess is that we'll see it, although perhaps not until 2011. At least two other North American launches, PopTag! and Vindictus, are expected within the coming months.
And that's far from all. Domestically, there are at least two new MMORPGs this year, Ever Planet and Dragon Nest, plus a browser-based game aimed at China. It wouldn't come as a great shock to see more purchases either, no matter what happens with GameHI. Nexon has been in acquisition mode for a while now, witness its deal last year for Neople, the creator of Dungeon Fighter Online.
So, while I can only speculate as to what it will be, I don't think we've heard the last from Nexon this year, and I've moved it up even higher on my watch list.
This week's MMOG trivia
One of the four classic novels in Chinese literature has been adapted into multiple F2P MMOs, two of which have rank among the most popular there, both having exceeded a million peak concurrent users. What is the English name for this book? Bonus question: What are the other three?
Journey to the West is thought to have been written by Wu Ch'eng-en in the l6th century. Sometimes known as Monkey after a particularly popular character, it's the highly fantasized tale of a Tang dynasty-era Buddhist monk's pilgrimage to India. The book is the basis for major hits Fantasy Westward Journey, which achieved 2.5 million PCU last year, and Westward Journey Online II.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (aka Three Kingdoms, ca. 14th century by Luo Guanzhong) is the best known of the four novels in the west, partly through the non-MMOs strategy games of the same name and the Dynasty Warriors tactical action series. The others are The Dream of the Red Chamber (aka The Story of the Stone, ca. mid-18th century by Cao Xueqin) and Water Margin (aka The Outlaws of the Marsh, ca. 14th century by Shi Nai-an and Luo Guanzhong). The latter is believed to have provided the inspiration for characters in 9Dragons and Jade Empire.