Recently, Sony Online Entertainment let it be known that EverQuest II would be going to Russia. The move was largely unnoticed in most circles, but recently Site Manager Kenn White got to ask some questions of Laura Naviaux, SOE’s Sr. Brand Manager, and David Kim, Project Manager of International Operations for SOE and Akella Online, about the localization process, what it means to SOE, EverQuest II and those who play it.

WarCry Q&A: EverQuest II Russian Expansion
Answers by Laura Naviaux (Sr. Brand Manager, SOE) and David Kim (Project Manager, International Operations, SOE and Akella Online)
Questions by Kenn White

WarCry: How long has SOE been working on the Russian version of EQII?

Laura Naviaux: We launched EverQuest II in Russia last summer with Akella Online, a premiere game publisher in the Russian market. Long before that we started the localization process and all the other technical elements and infrastructure needed to stand up the service.

WarCry: What were some of the marketing challenges unique to the Russian market?

Laura Naviaux: Actually, not as many as you would think. In many ways, the market is very similar to Europe and North America, with less moving parts Asia, for example. Russian gamers enjoy the deeper and more complex gameplay of an MMO, so EQII was a natural fit. We did encounter challenges in creating the infrastructure. Russia is in the formative stages of getting high speed internet connections to a majority of its population; with a country so large in terms of land mass it takes time to penetrate, especially outside of the major cities. Bandwidth is also paid for by the bit so we have to mindful of patches and large downloads. Piracy has also been a big issue in Russia, but with MMOs physical disc replication isn’t as harmful to the business since our products require an account key and monthly subscription fee. Lastly, Russia is so large that distribution can often be challenging, but with a leader in the industry like Akella Online we were able to overcome all of these hurdles.

WarCry: Is there a new server cluster localized for the Russian version?

David Kim: Yes, for EQII Russia we added new server clusters in our Amsterdam data center.

WarCry: What’s the MMO market like in Russia? Why do you feel that it was a smart place to expand?

Laura Naviaux: The MMO Market in Russia is healthy, it’s growing and there is strong demand. All things we look for in emerging markets. We would definitely consider publishing future titles in Russia.

WarCry: Are you pleased with the launch so far?

Laura Naviaux: The success of the Russian version surpassed all expectations. We follow international markets quite closely, continually looking for ways to expand our online games into true global communities and discovered over time that Russia is a rapidly growing, emerging game market. EverQuest II has continued to grow in subscribers since launch day; in fact, Echoes of Faydwer launched recently with much anticipation.

WarCry: Can you talk about what kind of support and localization staff you have in place to support this version?

Laura Naviaux: We worked hand in hand with Akella Online to bring EverQuest II to market in Russia. We have a large international staff as do they to oversee localization, operations, customer service, quality assurance and community relations.

WarCry: How many Russian servers are there at launch? What are they called?

David Kim: We opened with two live servers – Barren Sky (PvE) and Harla Dar (PVP).

WarCry: In terms of a delay, how long do you foresee the time lag between the Russian and American servers being for new content?

David Kim: Currently we are about 3~4 weeks behind US Game Updates and we would like to reduce this to less than a week. With constant updates from the development team, maintaining a high quality of localization makes this a challenging task, but we are refining our QA/Update process to improve.

WarCry: Has the Russian localization process taught you any lessons that have made it back to America?

David Kim: During this project we noticed with great pleasure that Akella is very much committed to high quality, something we hoped for from the beginning and now resulted in one of the best, if not the best localized version of any SOE products. It has also shown us that it pays off to put the extra time into polishing the product until it meets a very high standard of quality because our customer demand it and deserve it – not only in Russia but all over the world.

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