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 exclusive interview, Gamasutra speaks to Joe Cho of N-Log Soft, developer of Bots
, a robot-based arena fighter recently released by Acclaim in North America, and discusses the unique fact that Korean developers tend to own their own IP.
Can you explain your history?
Joe Cho: In the beginning, we started as Kidnkid, and we developed a PC game. We sold over 400,000 copies.We had success with that, then we changed our name to N-Log Soft.
We developed Bubble Shooter
and a PS2 network game called Mystic Nights
. We entered the online game industry with a game called Bout
. It's a game published by NHN in Korea, and Acclaim in the United States, as Bots
. We're in development with Darkness and Light
, and we’ve joined with an organization called KIPA, and gamengame.com.
Darkness and Light
is in fifth closed beta, and will be in open beta in Singapore and Malaysia.
Why did you decide to enter the PlayStation 2 space?
JC: In Korea, there were no companies that could do that with the PS2, so we just wanted to show our ability in the different things that we chose to do.
Did you receive any help from SCEK?
JC: It was published with Sony Korea, we had some tools from Sony for the development, and got some advice from them.
Were you pleased with the results of the PlayStation 2 release?
JC: With the sales in Korea, we were satisfied. In other countries, we couldn't sell it to a publisher. It was bad.
Do you have continued interest in console, or do you want to stay only online now?
JC: Our plan for now is to support online PC games. We have no plans for consoles.
In the future, if you do go cross-platform, what kind of game will you go cross-platform with?
JC: If we were able to be picked up by big distributors, we would choose distribution with retail games. But I'm also aware that downloadable games have a big presence, too. You can just download it, and pay by credit card or any other way. If we have a chance to make cross-platform games, maybe we will choose downloadable games via Microsoft.
How is the deal with Acclaim going so far?
JC: The property was commercialized last year by Acclaim. The number of users and their sales is really stable right now, and it's going to keep increasing in the market.
How many people are in N-Log Soft right now?
JC: 37 people.
Is that difficult?
JC: We don't pressure our developers, the development staff, because we have enough developers. They can do what they want, because they don't have any difficulties with the size. We hire part-time workers outside of the company, because we don't need many people for balancing and some other types of jobs.
How many online games can you support at the same time?
JC: Lately, we have two teams -- one for our one project, Darkness and Light
, and one for a new project. One team is just focused on one game, and then also we have two marketers for each game. So they just mainly focus on one game.
Do you outsource support for your earlier games like Bots?
JC: That game has been outsourced and serviced by another company since 2005, not by us.
In Korea, is it usually the publisher who provides support for infrastructure and that kind of stuff?
JC: All of the infrastructure is developed by the developers, and all of the customer service and other things like that is served by publishers.
Do you still get revenue share after the game is released, if the publisher is the one that owns the engine support?
JC: I think most of the game publishers have an initial one-time payment, and then they also have a revenue share. Currently, we are doing initial payment with revenue shares and some incentives.
In the situation like Bots, where it's released in the U.S., do you get paid again, or is it just the publisher who gets the money from that?
JC: We have a little share in it. Acclaim has a service license, not a full license.
Is it common for the publisher to completely own the IP in Korea?
JC: They may have once, but I think more game developers own their own projects now. We only need the publisher's service power. We don't want to sell all of our intellectual property to publishers.
So in the case of an online game, why do you even need a publisher?
JC: We have to advertise our games, right? If we do it on our own, it’ll be risky when it comes to marketing and customer service. To get really big in Korea, or anywhere, we need publishers right now.
But every game developer there is growing, like JCE and Asciisoft and so on. If they have enough power, they will start to do their own customer service.
It's surprising that a publisher would pay for a game without keeping the IP.
JC: I think that the West is really focused on the consoles, and that's where you don't need to update the games. But in online games, we consciously have to make new content, updates, and expand like that. We consciously need to spend our money to keep developing, so we need money to maintain our service.
What is next for N-Log Soft?
JC: A third-person shooting action MMORPG. The target age is 10-18, or teenagers.
Why did you decide for third-person? Is it so you can see the character, so there are opportunities for microtransactions?
JC: I want to emphasize the action, such as characters avoiding bullets. There are a lot of bullets coming, and you're avoiding them and running around and that kind of stuff. We also think that this type of action game is more easily approachable to users. Easy and fun is our intention.
Also the cash items, yes. If a user has purchased any items, they can see what they have and what's the difference between the other characters and his.