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Selling free trials

September 27, 2008 Comments off

Today I visited the local Mediamarkt store. When I passed by the PC games section I noticed that there were an unusual amount of NCSoft game boxes on the shelves. There has always been plenty of Guold Wars boxes and from time to time a few City of Heroes/Villains boxes. But now there were significantly more boxes.

I noticed that a number of the boxes only cost 19 SEK (rougly 2 Euro, or 3 USD) and there were a number of them, including for Lineage II and City of Heroes/Villains. The text on the box also said “valid for 14 days play”.

I.e. NCSoft is selling boxes for the free trial of some of their games. This might actually be a smart move to get more people to try out their games. They get it exposed to more people than those already into MMOs and downloading game clients. For those that do not want to spend long time on downloading the client they can also buy a disk with it for a small fee.

And with more shelf space it might also draw more attention to their games as a whole. With these boxes added to the regular boxes the NCSoft section was close to the Blizzard section in size in the store.

NCsoft consolidates Western operations, cuts development

September 11, 2008 2 comments

NCSoft seems to be in the position of merging their operations, creating an NC West with headquarters in Seattle. ArenaNet is located in the neighbourhood there, so I guess that shows how well the performance of the former US HQ in Austin has been received by the main HQ in South Korea.

ArenaNet’s Guild Wars have certainly been the most successful Western title for NCSoft, followed by City of Heroes/Villains.  The Lineage titles have not been doing so well and the more recent titles of Dungeon Runners and Tabula Rasa also have their share of problems. 

The development efforts on some future game in Austin was cancelled, and now NCSoft is also reducing staff in their UK office. This seems to include cancelling development of new titles that they had ramped up before – much in line with what NCSoft seems to have been doing in the US.

Since NCSoft has both cancelled some titles under development and also cancelled publication of titles developed outside NCSoft (e.g. Blackstar), they seem very much to put more focus on fewer titles. 

I can understand why they are doing this from a business perspective, it does makes sense. It is a bit too bad that their various efforts did not turn out well since they have at least had an innovative ambition here, trying new business models, new/different genres while most of the other major Western MMO companies mainly has been stuck in the fantasy-game-with-subscription-fee-model type of games.

I do hope that this also means that the separation of servers for US and EU sides in City of Heroes/Villains will be gone soon. NCSoft has removed the previous arguments for keeping them separate. At least one shared pool of servers would be an improvement from now, even if they do not go all the way to a serverless set-up a la Guild Wars. But at least Cryptic contemplated that before

So I think this also means that the major titles we are going to see next from NCSoft will be Aion and Guild Wars 2 and that is about it for a foreseeable future. City of Heroes/Villains will get some more love. If Tabula Rasa manages to get some more subscribers they might still be around also, but they are not in a particularly good position now.

The name Garriott was also completely absent from the press releases surrounding this re-organisation. Interpret that as you want.

Time vs item subscriptions

August 13, 2008 Comments off

NCSoft is in the process of changing their subscription model for Lineage and Lineage II, accoding to some comments on their latest earnings report call for Q2 2008 – this info is probably somewhere else also, but I first heard it on the call.

Instead of just offering a subscription with unlimited time, they will have three different options which you can choose from for that subscription fee:

  • Play with unlimited time, as before
  • Play at most 300 hours per month and get some in-game items
  • Play at most 100 hours per month and get more in-game items

So instead of spending a lot of time grinding for phat loot, one can spend less time in the game and possibly get phat loot anyway.

I do wonder a bit how much time some players spend on that game if the middle option is 300 hours. That is about 70 hours per week, almost twice as much many regular full-time jobs. Even the low option is one that would be more than enough time for me, most of the time.

Would a similar model be beneficial for other item-focused games, like World of Warcraft? Or any older and a bit grindy games, e.g. if items included were xp boosters or something similar?