103: The Korean Invasion

"Korean publishers also struggled, early on, to introduce their business model into a hostile American environment. Virtual asset purchase (that is, in-game item selling) makes up at least half of Korean MMOG revenue. People pay for them on their phone bills. These games rack up millions, $0.25 at a time. Micropayments are still new here, and many payment systems either aren't set up for it or seem perversely user-hostile. Target's MapleStory game cards foreshadow a breakthrough that may transform the entire MMOG industry."

Allen Varney charts the course of the "Korean Invasion."

The Korean Invasion

According to the World Fact Book, South Korea only has 49,044,790 people.

So, if there were 30 Million subscribers to Lineage... WOW!

I would guess the Lineage figures are worldwide. However, Cyworld and a few other hits have in fact generated 30 million accounts out of South Korea's 49 million people. Who knows how many of those accounts are dupes or just one-look visitors? At that level of penetration, the question hardly matters; regardless of how you cook the figures, you're still talking an amazing cultural phenomenon.

Korean games don't work in Western markets because of one very simple reason: Korean MMOGs actively encourage credit farming. Western players don't like games in which their game experience is held hostage by folks who play for the express purpose of making money.

Dude, call me when 90% of hardcore WoW players stop farming for their epic mounts.

The thing with Korean games, I think, is that they have an unabashedly monotonous and elongated grind. The way you play when you sign in is consistent, and the novelty comes from the playstyles of the other people you're with rather than from new circumstances. It's more like Counter-Strike, then. Which means it's very unsuitable for the more individualist Western audiences, who appreciate the value of a world populated by other living beings, but find it quite distasteful to depend on the competence of Random Internet Fuckheads to provide an interesting experience. (Or, at least, that's what I think). When you make an MMO for Westerners, you need to make your world varied and interesting, so that the value of the options available to a given avatar depend less on strangers and more on the avatar's history and location.

Being friends with people in the game completely invalidates all of that, but once you get 'em to that point, you're left with the people who already made that decision.

Beery:
Korean games don't work in Western markets because of one very simple reason: Korean MMOGs actively encourage credit farming. Western players don't like games in which their game experience is held hostage by folks who play for the express purpose of making money.

As an active player of Maplestory, I can tell you that the microtransaction model actually hinders credit farming and power leveling. This is because the Cash Shop (the microtransaction user interface) allows you to buy alternatives that are much cheaper than what is offered by companies like IGE. The game is essentially designed to fill the demand for such services without including shady companies like IGE.

The pervasive hacking was recently gotten under control with the use of server-sided logging programs.

I think we need help on this one. I think we'll need....Eric Cartman! I know, he's extreme, but my God, the results speak for themselves when he got rid of the hippies.

 

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