With the rise of microtransactions and the rise of titles such as MapleStory
in the casual MMO business, South Korean gaming has been growing in respect and relevance in the West.
There's a lot to learn from this rich, constantly evolving market, which grew up along lines so different from the U.S., Japan and Europe that it's difficult to compare -- and compete with.
To that end, Gamasutra has already spoken in-depth
with a variety of members of top companies in the market, conducted principally at the recent annual Gstar trade show, to offer their perspective on the industry in 2008 and going forward.
In this previously unpublished interview, following Gamasutra's interview Henry Lee of Blueside (best known for the Kingdom Under Fire
franchise (including the recently released Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom
, published for Xbox 360 by Microsoft Game Studios) we continue our examination of the Korean game biz by speaking to Blueside's Seong D Kim.
In this interview, Kim discusses Blueside's decision to enter the console market, and the process of developing Ninety-Nine Nights
with Microsoft and Q Entertainment.
Can you talk about the company background?
Seong D Kim: Blueside was Phantagram's in-house development studio, and Blueside Studio developed Kingdom Under Fire
. But Blueside has been separate from Phantagram , as independent developer since 2003. After that, we developed two titles: N3
, and Kingdom of Fire: Circle of Doom
, actually, that was released under the names of Phantagram and Q Entertainment.
Blueside is now purely a development company and Phantagram is just a production company. They don't develop.
But Phantagram isn't like a publisher?
SDK: Sort-of. Producing and publishing, and sometimes, for example in Korean markets, distribution as well.
Why did you split?
SDK: When Blueside was an in-house development studio of Phantagram, we weren't sure whether Blueside Studio was acting purely as a development studio. That means that sometimes Phantagram had to consider certain market situations, and sometimes they’d just ask Blueside to do something else.
To avoid any confusion, and also to increase our brand power we split. Phantagram is now a publisher and producer, and Blueside is purely a development company.
Why did Blueside choose console as the development platform?
SDK: That's a really good question. When we had just begun developing our titles, it was always our target to go for the world market. Not only for the Korean market, not only for the Asian market.
If our target was just for the Korean market, then yeah, definitely we would have to only develop for the PC online platform. As you know, the console market in Korea is nearly nothing.
But as I told you, our target is the world market, and as you know, the console market share is bigger than the PC. And also we think that the console is going to be a more advanced game format to express certain creations.
Why did you choose the Microsoft platforms from the beginning?
SDK: Honestly, our first title was for PC format, so, you know, the PC format is quite similar to the Xbox format. That made it easier to approach the console market, and the console format.
At the time, PlayStation was bigger than Xbox, but from our point of view, the Xbox was the more approachable format from our side.
When do you think consoles will be popular in Korea?
SDK: Honestly, the Korean market is not a well balanced market. Most of the market share is MMO, not consoles. Consoles have really, really small market share. So, that's why Microsoft and Sony and even Nintendo have been trying to expand their market share in the Korean market, but have not had success.
But just after Xbox 360, I could just feel that something changed in the Korean market. Some gamers are going to be interested in the console titles, and the console, because the Xbox 360 has amazing functions.
For example, Xbox Live -- through that they can play with PC gamers as well. And even the high technology, as, you know, home entertainment. So, their thinking is a little different now. At the end of last year, the release of Halo 3
, had a good effect on the Korean market.
Our title, Circle of Doom
, was a very popular title too -- good enough to get more gamers interested in the console. But, it's really difficult to say when the Korean console market is going to become of major importance.
With N3, I heard that there were some difficulties getting it completed at a certain point, from the Japanese perspective. What did you learn from that experience?
was a first-party title for Microsoft, and it was the first first-party title for Phantagram as well. But, at the time, Q Entertainment was involved as the game producer. So that means Microsoft, Q Entertainment, and Phantagram.
After the completion of the project, we learned that having so many companies involved was not a good system. Each party has their own work to do, and it is not easy to incorporate it.
Because, for example, if one company is delayed, but the other company is already done with what they have to do, that company has to wait until the other parties are finished. So it was not all in balance, all of the development work. So that was not a good system to do.
From now on, developer and publisher. Or developer, and, you know, the organizer -- that's it. No more.
What is the number of people working at Blueside now?
SDK: Last week we employed a few more, so, approximately a hundred and two.
In Korea, we are already the first major console developer. But our target is to be a major developer worldwide. That's why we are expanding to do multiple projects at the same time.
So, for example, at the moment we are now working on three projects at the same time. Of course, the completion dates are different, but at the moment we are working on them at the same time. Our target is, at the least, to release one or two titles every year.