Aion may be burning up the charts in Korea, but the real test will be its upcoming launch in the US and Europe, where Blizzard’s World of Warcraft reigns king – and NCSoft CFO Jae Ho Lee will be happy settling for second.
NCSoft has high expectations for Aion, its first true MMORPG since the rather successful Lineage and Lineage 2. So far, the game is off to a good start in Asia, with it earning 40.6 billion won ($32.7 million) in revenues across 225 servers throughout South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Japan since its launch in late 2008.
Still, there’s another test to come – its Western launch. Aion will hit the West at the end of September: North America September 22nd, Australia and New Zealand on the 23rd, and the EU on the 25th. There are two major hurdles for NCSoft’s MMOG to overcome: Firstly, Western gamers traditionally don’t give Eastern MMOGs more than a second look, and secondly, there’s WoW. Blizzard’s megapopular MMOG is the reigning heavyweight champion of the MMORPG world, and toppling it is a nigh-impossible task.
Well, Jae Ho Lee, NCSoft’s Chief Financial Officer, doesn’t think that you have to topple WoW instead. Hell, speaking in an earnings call, Lee said he’d be just fine settling for second place in the Western MMOG market:
“I believe the performance of Aion in the US and European markets will be very successful. … We are guessing that Aion will be — could be — the second [most] successful MMO in the US market next to [I]World of Warcraft.”
Lee noted that trying to match WoW‘s dominance would be “very hard,” but that the company was confident that Aion would be a success in the West.
On the other hand, he’d rather not think about Richard Gariott’s Tabula Rasa, a game with millions of dollars in development costs that was shut down for good earlier this year after it failed to catch on with investors. “Ok, um, it’s very unfortunate to hear the name of Tabula Rasa at this conference call,” admitted Lee. “And we all want to forget and erase that memory from our performance.”
Shooting for second place was the strategy of potential MMOG blockbuster Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning last fall, and after a prominent start, subscriptions dipped sharply. Will Aion be able to succeed where games like WAR and Age of Conan failed?
(Check out our preview and video supplement of Aion here!)