The New Guy at the Helm - Chris Chung Speaks Out
Chris Chung, the new president of NCSoft North America, recently posted a few words about taking on his new position, his management philosophy, and plans for NCsoft's future.
In any organization, when you get a new person at the helm, there are bound to be questions as to what he or she is going to do. Rumors can start in the break room and quickly spread throughout the organization and beyond. It doesn’t matter what the change is. Change makes people nervous. Although it helps that I’ve been around as a part of NCsoft in one capacity or another for the last five years, there are still a lot people in the company that don’t know me very well. It can also be a burden coming behind someone so well known and respected, both within and outside of the company, as Robert Garriott. While I don’t think “filling the shoes” of someone with decades of experience and a sharp sense of business like Robert is possible, it will be a wonderful challenge trying.
Someone recently asked me what my job as a president of this company would entail. My response was that one of the reasons I believe I got the job is because I don’t have a special talent. If I did, I’d probably rather be a famous designer, programmer or artistic genius. I wasn’t blessed with any of those talents so I have to be satisfied with having the privilege to work beside these talented people every day and help them to bring their creations to the customers. The core of my management philosophy formed during an experience I had a long time ago, when I was working for a large multinational software company and had to make direct reports for the first time. An executive of the company that I respected asked me to come to his office to have a cup of coffee with him. He asked me how I felt about being a manager since I just became one. I told him that I felt excited and challenged. He then asked me what I thought “management” meant. Since I was an avid reader of Drucker and a number of other management gurus of the time, I gave him a spiel about what the latest gurus say about the field of management. He listened patiently, nodded, and then said, “Chris, management is pretty simple. It’s taking care of the people.”
“You see,” he continued, “once you start managing, you are no longer a productive part of an organization. Your task is to provide the people in the front line with vision and make sure you take care of them to be their best.” Even though it was almost fifteen years ago, I still remember the conversation vividly. I consider that moment to be one of the most important moments of my career.
Although NCsoft is my first game industry “gig,” I can’t imagine being part of another industry. I love this industry and I am glad that I got my foot in the door with our Seattle studio, ArenaNet. I had the privilege of working with some amazing people there and this solidified my desire to stay in games. This industry more than any other industry is really about the talent, and I believe the key to success is realizing this fact. What is exciting is that you never know who will be the next Richard Garriott, Sid Meier or Mike O’Brien of the industry. They could come from any part of the company. This is the industry where, as the “famous” Parisian food critic from the movie Ratatouille, Anton Ego, has once said, “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” It takes a special combination of skill sets to be successful in the games industry and I believe NCsoft is lucky enough to have some of the most creative and technically savvy talent in the world.
Simply put: my job is to make sure that the employees here at NCsoft do what they do best and that the management team takes care of their needs so we can continue to produce great products for this industry.
Everyone in our business must take on a long-term view. Our projects often spend three years or longer in development (much to management’s chagrin) and after launch often have an incredible shelf life. It means that we need to retain key people for five or ten years (or longer) to make sure that we have continuity in the creative core. We push both the creative and technical envelopes of the entertainment experience.
Sure, our games are complex and can be very expensive to build. However, there is a special joy when the product you created becomes a world on its own and the community really takes hold. There comes a point in the product’s life when the community of passionate fans you’ve built and the overwhelming buzz they create take center stage, sometimes above everything else. Our success requires that we not only understand the dynamics of launching a product successfully, but we also know what it means to provide an ongoing, thriving service.
So, what am I going to do as the new guy at the helm? First, I want to make sure that we continue our path of developing a strong portfolio of high quality online games, reflecting our commitment to creating franchise-quality IPs, bringing innovations to online gaming, and exploring all forms of viable business models. Robert started NCsoft’s North American business with this strategy and I look forward to continuing that. This year we also want to focus on making sure we look at our online infrastructure and make it much more user friendly. We will also continue to build and roll out an array of services that will benefit our customers by making it easier to play games and connect with their friends. Of course, we will continue support of our entire suite of online games—we have a lot of exciting things planned for Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa, the City of Heroes and Guild Wars franchises, Lineage II, Dungeon Runners, Exteel and the rest. We hope to see the release of the much anticipated AION: The Tower of Eternity this year, first in Korea and then here in the United States and in Europe. Finally, we’ve also started work on our first PLAYSTATION 3 project and hope we can release more information on that in the near future.
I hope that this gives you more insight as to where I’m coming from and what I hope to achieve as President for NCsoft in North America this year. I’m very excited about the year ahead. Stay tuned to this Dev Corner for more information from our team of talented developers in the coming months.
Chris Chung, President, NCsoft North America