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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.”