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Interview: T3's Redbana Launches Western Dev, Publishing Office, Talks Rescuing Audition

T3 subsidiary Redbana has officially entered the North American game scene, and talks to Gamasutra on taking PC online dance game Audition back from Nexon -- plus future hints on Flagship's Mythos.

Leigh Alexander, Contributor

June 23, 2009

5 Min Read

Korean publisher T3 Entertainment subsidiary Redbana is officially entering the North American development and publishing scene, and its first task will be to reboot Western operations for T3's multiplayer social rhythm-dance game Audition. This means the company, which is the original co-developer of the globally popular Audition and is probably best known in the West for claims on Flagship Studios IP by sister firm Hanbitsoft, is taking the reins back from Nexon, who previously published the PC online title in the U.S. Although Audition has over 300 million users worldwide, Redbana global manager Eric Liu tells Gamasutra that Nexon was "focused more on their own games," which include MapleStory and Kart Rider, and at the time they reclaimed the title from Nexon's stewardship, the only had about 10,000 U.S. players. Redbana opened its U.S. offices about nine months ago, and since then, the team has been working on a relaunch for the game. "There's quite a lot to do," says Liu. "We're basically trying to get patches up for the players, because apparently it seemed like the community was waiting for a lot of new music and game features [that were] never really... focused on previously. Now we're here, and since we have the backing of T3 Entertainment, we can try to get the players what they want." What It'll Take To Reboot Audition Although its worldwide success has a large concentration in the Asian territories, Audition has plenty of traits in its favor to make a hit in the West, Liu asserts. "It's not only geared toward the younger population, but it also includes key musical elements, and also fashion, and also dance... so very hip and trendy types of gameplay features," he says. Localization will play a key role in establishing the title on these shores, says Liu. "We're definitely going to bring in better pop music that appeals to the younger generation here -- one of the reasons why we opened up a branch [in the U.S.] is because every country's different in therms of the types of genres they enjoy," he explains. "We want to make sure we get it right over here -- trying to manage everything from South Korea doesn't really work globally." Redbana is "working very closely with the music industry" right now, says Liu, noting that Redbana CEO Young Park has a background in the entertainment industry and a line in to many composers and artists with whom a collaboration might be ideal. "Definitely, this is like a reboot, where we want to get licensed popular music for the songs that you hear on the radio," says Liu. "At the same time, we'll be introducing a lot of sort of B-class artists and people who actually have a lot of talent, but haven't really had a lot of exposure. So we want to attack from all fronts, looking for the most popular trends in music and fashion." The Audience Is Ready Audition is free-to-play and microtransactions-based, and purchasing fashion items and accessories is a big part of the gameplay. Gaining user feedback as Redbana reboots the title will be key to making the game work, Liu says. "One of the major things with Nexon operating was there was a lack of community features and focus on community," he says. "One of the things that we want to improve here is to listen to our core audience and ask them, 'what kind of music do you like, features, songs, fashion do you enjoy seeing in the game?' And that's smth that we want to really tailor the game to and improve," he says. Marketing toward the game's specific target audience will also play a role, Liu adds -- and thanks to developments on the digital frontier, the timing is better than ever to reach this audience. "I think in the Western audience right now, there's a lot of expansion of these free-to-play games, and people aren't really used to this idea of an RMT-based system yet," says Liu. "People are so used to subscription models and just purchasing the box product. But I think with the explosion of DLC and then RMT-based transactions, this is becoming more of a global success, and hopefully maybe this year or next year, it'll be more a part of mainstream games as well." Audition's target audience in general may be more ready for this than most, suggests Liu. "One of the things that's different about this game is that it appeals to the younger generation who potentially are hardcore gamers," he says. "They're not used to the basic subscription model we just mentioned -- they're used to purchasing these RMTs from free-to-play games, or even purchasing ringtones for a dollar or two dollars, and things like that." Beyond Audition In addition to the Audition project, Redbana's U.S. office has numerous plans. U.S. development teams are focusing on other projects as well as considering global IPs that will "appeal to everyone." T3 Entertainment itself currently has 10 titles in development, but not all will necessarily be ideal candidates for Western localization. "We're also not only bringing over games -- we want to develop in-house," says Liu. The aim is to build a truly American development studio here that "understands and grew up with American games, and then they'll also think about globalizing these types of IP." "There's a whole gamut of games we're looking into," Liu says. "We're pursuing focus group testing to see how they'll perform over here. Right now, we don't have any publicly-announced games we're bringing over next, but we're definitely in the process of looking at that." Notably, also within the company's purview is Flagship Studios' Mythos. HanbitSoft, a sister company to Redbana and a fellow subsidiary of T3, owns the rights to both Mythos and Flagship's Hellgate: London and recently said it would reboot Mythos with Redbana's support in the West. (It's also understood that Redbana's U.S. studio is where at least some of the current Hellgate: London development for the Korean market is going on.) With Audition the current priority, however, Liu says Redbana's not ready to discuss Mythos quite yet, but to expect further information soon. "With the backing of a big company like T3, we believe that we have what it takes to hire good talent and expand on the types of games we currently have and bring them to a global audience," says Liu. "You'll be hearing a lot from us."

About the Author(s)

Leigh Alexander

Contributor

Leigh Alexander is Editor At Large for Gamasutra and the site's former News Director. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety, Slate, Paste, Kill Screen, GamePro and numerous other publications. She also blogs regularly about gaming and internet culture at her Sexy Videogameland site. [NOTE: Edited 10/02/2014, this feature-linked bio was outdated.]

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