The answer proved to be fairly simple. "We felt we'd put a portfolio of products together, which we've been doing," he says, getting into the secret of turning churn lead into subscriber gold. "If we incentivize and then somehow change the probability slightly, that instead of someone stopping playing Lineage and then going to EverQuest, the probability is slightly different that they might go to City of Heroes. And how can I change that probability?

"I can make it easy for people to play within my portfolio," he says, and details a very simple strategy of working with his customers, rather than trying to entrap them in a single game. "I can give them free trials. I can download things automatically to their hard drive. I can send them advertising from the portfolio. I can send them clips automatically within the portfolio. There's a whole lot of things that I can do to support a portfolio of products that slightly changes the probability they will stay with us." Retention is a numbers game. Influence the odds just a few points and you come up big over time. "If you look at the probabilities, if I have changed this, just slightly, churn becomes my friend. As a matter of fact, the higher the churn rate, the more certain I am that I will eventually own everybody." It's refreshing to meet an executive that talks like a Bond villain, but with a portfolio of cool games instead of an orbiting space laser. He continues, "So, given that we know churn [will happen], we've been trying to design a business that allows for and thrives in that new area. Which is why I think that a multi-product, multi-genre portfolio of products that support each other is going to be valuable in the future." In other words, even if a player leaves one of their games, Robert wants another game in their portfolio to be appealing, because in the end, all the subscriptions go to NCsoft.

While he might be out for industry domination, he still talks a lot about taking care of his customers. "Our goal as a company is to develop a relationship with the customer, so that we can provide them value that they're willing to pay for. It doesn't matter what that looks like beyond that statement," he says. "The great news is that once you've gotten over the hurdle of developing that relationship in the first place, like getting their credit card number, which is the hardest step ... it is now more convenient for them to stick with you than it is to go other places. Why do you think people buy from Amazon? It's because one click does it all." Robert sees Amazon as "totally trustworthy," which also happens to be his goal with NCsoft. He wants the company to be "a totally trustworthy place that you can go that has great products and, if you don't like it, no problem. You can get your money back. We want to find the way that people are most comfortable with."

Instead of building a model and hammering players into it, he's taking a different approach and embracing the business paradigm the customers want. "We don't care if it's 'you buy an episode and then there's never recurring billing,' we don't care if that is 'the whole game is free and instead you buy virtual property.' We don't care if it's a subscription-based game, and we don't care if someone invents yet another business model. They're all fine." He uses the Korean parent company for an example, saying, "They're launching what is called NC Coin, which allows us to do micro-billing. You'll be able to play arcade-style games for a quarter." It's ironic that a super-progressive online games giant might be able to revive the sputtering arcade model. They're also working on "a product coming out that's basically going to allow you to play for a certain amount of time, up to a certain level, and you can play all the way through the game. But if you want the super-uber swords and the higher level experience and upper-level dungeons, then you can pay a small subscription fee, five bucks a month, or something like that. So, basically, [it will be] a fairly simple game that people can get into and have a good time, play a lot, and once they feel like they're getting really good value out of it, then they can pay more to actually have upper-level stuff."

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