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From Sierra To Korea: J. Mark Hood's New Way
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From Sierra To Korea: J. Mark Hood's New Way

September 11, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

The number of publishers localizing MMOs has really exploded. I'm wondering, first of all, why you think there are so many. And secondly, do you think the market for Korean MMOs may become saturated here?

JMH: Yeah, I think it is saturated here, and I think there's a real simple reason why most people do it. And the basic reason is -- how do you compete with $15, $20 million budgets that Activision, Blizzard, and EA are doing right now? Unless you have a huge company and a huge amount of capital, there are not a lot of ways to do that.

So, the things that you see booming right now between the smaller guys, where I think a lot of the creativity is coming from, is either from the casual space, in the medium-section space that's a lot less expensive to do, or they're just porting stuff over from Korea or China.

Now, the problem with that is there are two ways to look at that. One is just to get titles over here. That doesn't work anymore. In fact, I'm not sure that it ever really did, except in a few cases. But what you're really trying to do is look for a particular type of title, a really unique, cool title. They do exist, but it takes a lot of looking. A lot of looking.

And I think you really should take a look at Battleswarm and see, because I think it's the first of its kind. And I didn't look at titles specifically from China or specifically from Asia at all. We looked everywhere -- Europe, Korea, Japan, and China. And we got Battleswarm: Field of Honor and published that game, licensed it -- not because it was cheap and easy to get over and localize, but because it was truly a brand new type of title, completely innovative.

It feels like to me, in a lot of these localized MMOs, that the original developer is somewhat de-emphasized and difficult to find information on. Just going straight from the game, you don't necessarily see it as much.

JMH: Yeah, I think that's a really shame. There are a couple reasons for that. One is sort of arrogance, and the other is that people, they want to take credit for something. I think it's a shame.

We prominently display [Battleswarm developer] Gameworld's name everywhere. Gameworld is a great developer. I've got them on the website, I've got them on the videos that went out everywhere. Their name is right after Reality Gap, just as if they were any one of the developers that I had at Sierra. They're pretty much listed the same way I would have listed Valve or Relic or Gearbox or Papyrus -- any of the groups that we published for at Sierra. I think that's important.

Battleswarm: Field of Honor

Speaking of Korea specifically, I interviewed Jae Yong Min, the marketing manager for Nexon. He was saying that free-to-play market in Korea is basically saturated -- perhaps super-saturated. As a result, are you finding more of these companies looking Westward as a way to try to actually get money in the first place?

JMH: Yeah, they absolutely are. I think we're seeing some consolidation there. I think we're seeing some big companies try to take the bull by the horns, make sure that it's focused on what's needed for this market here specifically.

I did read that interview. I think it's pretty much spot on. The Korean market is super-saturated right now. It's just crazy. I mean, free-to-play games there are ending up being mostly free to play.

Over here, it's a little different. I think you'll find, here, the same as it's always been here in the U.S. Good titles do really good, and bad titles don't do very good. I know there's been a lot of schlock where it's just sort of come over here.

It's not just schlock. There are some good games that have come over here, but they weren't good necessarily for the U.S. market. A lot of things we've found, you know, vanity items and things that are very, very popular in Asia -- just like accessories and things to make yourself look different -- aren't necessarily as popular here. Things that are more important here are actually how the game plays, getting yourself more advancement and skill. So, it is really different.

You probably wouldn't want to say if you had identified them, but what are those niches that still exist that you can try and get into a market with? I mean, Battleswarm is perhaps an example you can use. There's a lot of stuff that is out there, but there are some niches that still aren't filled. How do you identify those?

JMH: Yeah. It's funny. I'm a developer at heart. That's what I've always done. I started at Sierra as a programmer. So, I probably don't look for games the way that a lot of marketing-oriented game business people do. When I look for a game, it's really pretty simple. It doesn't necessarily have to fit a niche. It's got to be innovative and cool and new and do something different.

Maybe that's just because I got bored of doing lots of sequels and a lot of licensed titles, just trying to do the "play it safe and don't lose" thing. It's more just swinging for the fence. But the game has got to be exciting. Gamers, you know, we kind of know something when we see it, that's new and different and cool.

I've been talking about it with various people and thinking about it, RTS versus FPS, for years, but we didn't really picture it implemented in this way [in Battleswarm]. I think what they've done is pretty neat. So, in terms of identifying, I don't know. You're probably actually better off talking to a marketing guy who's not looking for products just as a product guy. I'm more of a product guy.

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