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The Free Zone: Nexon, Tencent, Most-Played PC Games

Columns By Richard Aihoshi on December 09, 2014

Nexon, Tencent, Most-Played PC Games

Unless you've been hiding from the world, it should be clear that for the past few years now, the major Asian game publishers have outstripped their western counterparts in terms of increasing annual revenue. The recent weeks have brought interesting information on two of them, Nexon and Tencent. In addition, some new market data came out last month about the most-played PC games in North America and Europe.


Nexon walks away from a post-zombie apocalypse 

In last week's edition of  The List, I stated my opinion that in the current MMOG market, a solid release with a post-zombie apocalypse theme could be pretty successful. Coincidentally, I wrote this soon after learning that Nexon's agreement to publish the non-MMO online shooter Human Element had been rescinded. Apparently, the split came about after its American developer, Robotoki, insisted that the game not be free to play.

As we'd probably have expected, nothing of substance was revealed as to how and why the two companies diverged in this regard. I would assume they shared a single basic vision for the project when they signed their deal, and that it included using some form of F2P revenue model. So, although I can't say I much care either way that the game will now be P2P, I'm certainly curious as to the reasoning behind Robotoki's apparent change of mind. Sadly, I doubt I'll ever see more than a sanitized version, and possibly not even that.

Looking at a broader perspective, I wonder how this might impact Nexon's development strategy in the western hemisphere. The company made a splash this summer by acquiring a minority stake in Boss Key. That new studio, which is headed by accomplished designer Cliff Bleszinski, is said to be working on an F2P FPS code-named BlueStreak. For whatever it may be worth, associating with a  well-known developer isn't a guarantee of success. I'm reminded that Nexon's past includes the 2006 hiring of Alex Garden which, unfortunately, produced no memorable results.

Research: Tencent revenue surges to 50 percent ahead of #2 publisher

Those of us who keep an eye on the global online games market are aware that Tencent has been the top publisher as measured by revenue for a while now. Many western gamers may not realize this. Those who don't are certain to be surprised to learn that the Chinese giant is also the overall leader, this despite bringing in little or no money from PC or console box sales.

What's more, researcher Newzoo reported a few weeks ago that as of mid-year, Tencent has significantly lengthened its lead. In the first half, the company pulled in $3.5 billion, representing a sharp spike of 40 percent compared to the same period in 2013. EA took over second spot by growing 8 percent to $2.3 billion, passing Activision, which fell 12 percent to $2.1 billion. If you'd like to see a list of the top 25, you can do so here. I suspect that like I did, most of you will find at least a surprise or two among the names.

Research: October's most-played PC games in North America and Europe

Newzoo also put out a list of October's 20 most popular PC offerings in these two regions. As a caveat, it's based on sessions played by gamers who used Overwolf, which means the population from which the data was taken may not be fully representative of the overall player base. In any case, it's still interesting even if we should exercise caution making generalizations from it.

It wasn't difficult to guess that League of Legends ranks first. Neither was it much of a shock to see that World of Tanks and Minecraft were next. As for MMORPGs, five made it. Unsurprisingly, they're headed by World of Warcraft, which sits fourth. It's joined by Guild Wars 2 (#6), ArcheAge (#7), Star Wars: The Old Republic (#11) and Aion (#20). I don't know about you, but I'm somewhat surprised (and maybe a bit disappointed as well) that at least one or two others didn't appear on the list.

Closing queries

What do you think Nexon's strategy is for the western hemisphere? Does the company put enough weight on North America and western Europe? What are the benefits and drawbacks of its apparent emphasis on Asia?

  • Can Tencent grow its revenue fast enough to surpass EA and Activision combined?
  • What do you think Tencent is planning for North America and Europe? How long will it be content to continue having only a limited presence in these regions?
  • What will it take for a western game publisher to become the world's largest? How likely is this?
  • How accurate do you think Newzoo's list of most-played PC games is? Why doesn't it include more MMORPGs?
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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