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GNGWC: Kevin Kim, CEO

Dana Massey Posted:
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After two years, Shot Online makes its way into North American retail

MMORPG.com had the chance to attend the GameNGame World Championships in Suwon, South Korea last week. The event was the finals of a world-wide tournament for three Korean games: Silkroad Online, Gunbound and Shot Online. Over the next few days, we will bring you articles on Silkroad and the event itself, but today, we get started with a focus on Shot Online.

Shot Online is developed by OnNet and the North American version maintained by OnNet USA. In Korea, the CEO of OnNet USA Kevin Kim met with MMORPG.com to discuss his online sports RPG.

Shot Online is an MMO Sports game. Players advance their characters skills, items and abilities by playing golf. While things like force and accuracy are decided by character skill, the player has to make the decisions themselves. In effect, you can hit harder than Tiger Woods, but if you aim the ball at the side of a mountain, it won’t do you any good. The game requires an interesting combination of player and character skill.

It has been two years since Shot Online made its North American debut, but this month marked its North American retail debut. Published by Synet, the game is available in major retailers across Canada and the United States. However, for the first two years of its existence, Shot Online has been free to play and free to download. They make their money through a micro payment system where players purchase items.

Why then will anyone pay $29.99 for a box copy when they can get it for free? Besides the novelty value for fans and the simple PR sense of legitimizing the game by having it in major retailers like BestBuy and Wal-Mart, there is incentive for even current Shot Online players to buy the box. Inside the box, on top of the CD and other memorabilia, are two $20.00 game cards. One card allows the players to buy anything, while the other is for specialized items. Provided the player is interested in these specialized items – he was not specific on what they were – then there is the potential for current players to save a few dollars on things they may well have bought anyway. The box copy and its hidden treasure can easily be associated with existing accounts.

Over the last two years, OnNet has been busy expanding the game beyond where it was when MMORPG.com first reviewed it. Currently, the game features 13 courses. Five of the courses are modeled on real ones, while eight are fantasy courses. The company is in the habit of doing a large update at least twice per year that includes new items, courses, etc. This month, they’re planning one such update to introduce a new real course modeled on the Takentado golf course in Nagoya, Japan. In December, they’re going to expand again with a new fantasy course themed around volcanos.

In the last few months they’ve also added club fitting to the game. This is a system, similar to crafting in regular MMOGs, that allows players to buy items then take them to a shop and combine them into better items.

One of the largest complaints in the early days of the game was rampant cheating. People would hit 400 yard hole in ones all the time and it threw the game into disarray. Kim told us that has changed. Shortly after launch, they integrated a new anti-hacking system into the game and he believes that has largely solved the problem. While the details were not available – for obvious reasons – he said that he has not seen complaints in a long time.

The game itself is healthy, if not a run-away hit. They’ve had roughly 130,000 people register free accounts. Of those, roughly 20,000 players have logged in once within the last month, which is the closest measure they have to a traditional subscriber number. With retail, they’re looking to expand those numbers.

They’re also holding tournaments. On top of the GNGWC, where the winner received $5,000, they hold two other tournaments per month. The largest prize in these was a $1,000 reward.

Compared to where it was the last time we looked at it, Shot Online looked like it was rounding into form quite nicely in Korea. It is not for everyone – some people just don’t like golf – but if you are a fan of the sport, it presents a rather unique twist on the MMO experience.

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Dana Massey