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title Robert Garriott’s NCsoft North America Year in Review
Hits 24428
date 2007.12.21

Friday, December 14, 2007

 

Dev Corner: Robert Garriott’s NCsoft North America Year in Review

 

 

As 2007 comes to a close, I think its well worth discussing what a great year it has been for the company, and using that success as a platform for 2008 and beyond. We’ve had many exciting things happen this year, with much of it providing building blocks for even better years ahead of us.

 

First of course is the release of Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa in November, which is a big event in the history of this company and the fruit of much labor by many current and former employees worldwide. We founded Destination Games in April 2000 in part to release this game, and while I give my brother Richard some grief now and then about the length it took to produce it (though, I must admit, the game you see today is the result of work since 2004), I’m very proud of Tabula Rasa and our commitment to producing exciting, different massively multiplayer games. Not only have we delivered an interesting science fiction game to our players with some unique differentiators over the standard MMO, we backed it up with a very smooth launch and exceptional customer service. I can’t think of a better launch than Tabula Rasa. I look forward to seeing the game grow with new features and content…especially since I actually enjoy playing this game so much!

 

Also in November we had even more exciting news. We absolutely love City of Heroes and we really wanted greatly to re-invest in the franchise; the question was how to do it in the best way possible. Ultimately our decision was to acquire the entire City of Heroes Intellectual Property (IP), which we had previously shared with Cryptic Studios. In the process, we formed an entirely new development studio, NCsoft NorCal, where we hired the entire City of Heroes development team, and we’re currently hiring more to take this IP to the next level. This change of ownership hasn’t slowed us down much at all, with our content updates (“Issues”) continuing on their normal pace and “Issue 11: A Stitch in Time” launched in late November.  We have big, big plans for this franchise, which we hope to share in 2008, and we know that City of Heroes fans will not be disappointed.

 

In August we released Eye of the North, an expansion pack for the extremely popular Guild Wars franchise. Eye of the North was a bit different from our previous Guild Wars releases in that it wasn’t a standalone product; you had to own one of the three Guild Wars titles (Prophecies, Factions, or Nightfall) in order to play, and ArenaNet really geared the content towards high-level, experienced players. We also intended Eye of the North to act as a connecting bridge of sorts, from Guild Wars to the newly announced Guild Wars 2, which players anticipate seeing on store shelves in 2009. To say that we are excited about Guild Wars 2 would be a major understatement; we’re sticking with the same revenue model (you buy the boxed game and play with no monthly fees), but putting the players into a rich, vibrant persistent world. You’ll hear more from us about Guild Wars 2 some time next year.

 

In May 2007 our first product with a free-to-play business model came to fruition as we released Dungeon Runners to the public. It’s hard not to have fun playing Dungeon Runners; it’s fast, easy to play, involves a lot of hacking and slashing, and is infused with a wicked sense of humor in nearly every facet of the game. While players can play the game for free, they get added bonuses and extra privileges if they become Members for a smaller, appropriate monthly fee. This has been the first time we’ve released a product such as Dungeon Runners, and I have to say so far it’s been a success. The addition of in-game advertising will be another first for us, and in December we integrated them into Dungeon Runners in a couple of different ways (and if you don’t like ads, remember that Members won’t see them!).

 

We continued our dabbling in alternative types of payment in online games this December when we launched NCcoin, a form of micro-payment transaction system currently in use with our free-to-play robotic action fighting game, Exteel. A customer can buy NCcoin in the PlayNC store, then use the system to purchase all kinds of items in the game. This is another exciting development for the company. If it works well, we want to use NCcoin in the future with other products where appropriate.

 

The Lineage franchise has continued on a brisk pace, with our very first North American product, Lineage, seeing the release of “Episode 5: Temple of Shadows” in March and Lineage II releasing the major expansions “Interlude” in April and “The Kamael”, which we just released last week. Both games have maintained a steady, loyal player base. More expansions are on the way in 2008 as we continue to grow both products here and in other NCsoft territories worldwide.

 

Phew! All that and I haven’t even mentioned our deal with Sony where NCsoft North America will agree to begin producing products for the PLAYSTATION 3. We hope to have our first product released by the end of 2008 and more products after that. We haven’t announced what this will be yet, but we do have the freedom to port existing titles in interesting new ways or utilizing new IPs.

 

The future is looking great for NCsoft North America. I’ve mentioned quite a few plans we have for 2008, and in addition we are very much looking forward to launching AION: The Tower of Eternity. Aion is not only a beautiful fantasy MMOG, there are some very unique aspects to this game that should really shake the walls around town. More info on AION will come next year.

 

I’ve been lucky enough to head up the efforts of our North American business for the past several years and I have some exciting news to reveal as well. My favorite part of my job has been developing the business–taking NCsoft from a little-known Korean company to a major player in the online games business in North America. Starting in 2008, I am taking on a new role with the company so I can continue to develop NCsoft’s interest in this market and expand it to others. Since this takes so much time, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is time for NCsoft in North America to have a new President. As such, I will continue with the company in developing its long-term business interests (we’ve got some great stuff lined up already for 2009 and beyond!) and Chris Chung, currently our Vice President for Global Product Development, will become the President of the North American business unit. Chris has a long history in the industry and has had many successes, in both eastern and western markets. I couldn’t be more confident in his abilities and more pleased he agreed to take this role. You will likely hear from Chris in the new year on his plans.

 

With that, I will close. From all of us at NCsoft, have a safe and happy holiday season… and don’t forget to keep playing our games!

 

Robert Garriott, President
Robert Garriott has been President of NCsoft North America since May 2001. Prior to joining NCsoft, he was President of Origin Systems, which he co-founded with Richard Garriott in 1983. In 1992, Electronic Arts acquired Origin. Robert stayed on with EA as vice president of business development and later senior vice president of product development. Mr. Garriott left EA in 1995 to pursue personal interests. He and brother Richard co-founded another game company, Destination Games, in 2000. Robert joined NCsoft Corporation as President of its North American offices when it merged with Destination Games in 2001.

 

 

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