NCSoft West to Take on Blizzard in Next-Gen MMOs

Wednesday NCSoft announced its plans to consolidate its western offices by the end of 2008. Led by Chris Chung, previous CEO of NC Interactive, NC West will merge NC Europe, NC Austin, ArenaNET as well as NC Interactive into one subsidiary located in Seattle, Washington. While NCSoft is based in Korea, NC West will handle the western regions including Europe and North America.

“We are confident that by combining our subsidiaries into a unified global organization under Chris Chung’s leadership, NC West will become a more powerful force to be reckoned with in the western MMO market,” said NCSoft CEO TJ Kim in a press release. “Chris has become a guiding force within our company and has been extremely successful at every position he has held with us.  His detailed first-hand knowledge of all aspects of our business is invaluable and will help establish NC West as a global leader.”

The new subsidiary arrives at the heels of Blizzard’s recent announcement of both Diablo 3 and last year’s big Starcraft 2 reveal. Anticipation alone could jeopardize NCSoft sales in North America alone despite steady subscription counts in City of Heroes/Villains (137,000) and Lineage 2 (610,000) once Blizzard’s two mammoth games hit the streets. Currently Guild Wars is NCSoft’s biggest contender with over five million units sold thus far, and doesn’t require a monthly fee.

However, NC West’s biggest weapon against the Blizzard giant will be the upcoming MMORPG Guild Wars 2. The Guild Wars "sequel" will feature true MMORPG gameplay but without the hefty monthly fee currently enforced in Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. With the western subsidiaries now under one roof, NC West will be able to fully utilize the expertise of ArenaNet’s Jeff Strain, Patrick Wyatt and Mike O’Brien; all three held senior positions at Blizzard prior to the formation of ArenaNet in 2000.

But with ten million subscribers and dominating 62-percent the MMORPG market, its a wonder if anything will topple World of Warcraft. Funcom’s Age of Conan looks barbaric enough to tackle Blizzard’s beast, racking in over 700,000 subscribers in just two months after its initial release. Currently NCSoft has scrapped the initial 2008 release date for Guild Wars 2, offering no further clues to its eventual publication. While it quite possible that the delay is the result from NCSoft’s restructuring, the game actually entered the alpha stage this year.

Whether Guild Wars 2 has anything to do with the formation of NC West or not, the merging of the four subsidiaries seems to be a logical one.  “There is an unparalleled opportunity for growth in the massively multiplayer online market,” said Chris Chung. “By combining the strength of our US and European teams, NCsoft has the best global infrastructure to win in new and existing markets, and the best developer talent capable of creating blockbuster MMO franchises.”

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  • I played Guild Wars and loved it for awhile. NCsoft has to do 2 things to make it a WoW killer. Guild Wars already has one of the best team based PVP and PVE systems around. Problem is NCsoft has to make it a more viable option to those who do not like to play in teams. Also NCsoft must make the PVE aspect much more appealing and in-depth. The Last thing NCsoft must do is add many more achievements, or levels, to be gained by a player over time. I hate to bring this game into it, but Runescape is a very popular MMO (if you can really call it that) because there is just so much to do and so much to gain with the player's spent time. Guild Wars was a great game because it had excellent PVP, good servers, player's combat efficiency was based on skill and not equipment, and the lack of a monthly fee. The problem was that those who like PVE got tired of the game quickly and there quickly ran out of things to do because the very frequent updates were rather bland and all very similar. Then not to mention the fact that all of the expansion packs kind of felt the same and killed any challenge in leveling to the lvl 20 cap. In the end Guild Wars is much to different to be a WoW killer and unless Guild Wars 2 has a lot of huge changes I can not see it being a WoW killer. Though, to be honest I think WoW's popularity is more due to it being very well known then anything, I still don't think it lives up to the hype. Just my two cents I suppose.
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  • NCSoft has several high profile as well as some small budget mmos in development. I think its a good move to consolidate and cut spending on thier smaller mmos. Larger mmo studios like NCSoft typically have 500+ employees per branch. The smaller size with many branches can take a hit on producation time. In the end it will mean Aion, Guild Wars 2, and Blade and Soul will be that much better.
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  • I'm getting really tired of all these companies trying to be "WOW killers". The only way to be come close to taking WOW down is to use the same formula that WOW does, which is basically to scoop the lowest common denominator. You do this by making the game easy to play, make the rewards come quickly and frequently, and make them seem like large rewards. Essentially hang a carrot in front of the person face, but constantly move the carrot so they never quite catch it.

    Frankly i just wish that the MMO industry would go back to its pre WOW trend of moving towards a larger number of specific types of MMO's to suit different gamers. I.E. a game with large leveling times, high death penalties, etc for the "hardcore" mmo'er. Then an easier, WOW style game for the casual player, then an open sandbox type mmo for the hardcore PVPers, a RVR style MMO for the goal oriented PVP'ers, etc etc etc.

    Unfortunately it looks like that won't happen, instead every MMO dev is going to try to chase the almighty $ of WOW.

    /grumble
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