Aion: A Launch Era Retrospective

As NCSoft celebrates Aion’s 4th anniversary, we take a look back at the early days of this hotly anticipated title.

It’s hard to believe that Aion launched four years ago this month. In celebration of this historic event, NCSoft is running a number of special events (get the scoop on all of them right here). While they’re busy celebrating, I thought it would be entertaining to take a quick look back at the early days leading up to the launch of Aion. 

Aion was a special title at the time of its impending release. It was a game that was already a smash hit in South Korea and had been for some time. It may not have been the first previously released Eastern MMO to be ported to North America, but it was the first I can remember that made a conscious decision to localize it for Western audiences and dedicated a lot of resources to that end. The results of these efforts were noticeable but sadly fell short in some regards. As I noted all those years ago, the female casters still sounded like dying porn stars. 

Even so, the hype around Aion’s release was impressive to say the least. You couldn’t go anywhere on the web without seeing some “smuggled” footage of the South Korean version and you certainly couldn’t talk about any other game without someone making a comment about how they were “just waiting for Aion to come out.” 

Every new game in this genre gets a lot of hype before release (everyone wants to see what shiny new toy they’re going to get next), but Aion had a lot of legitimate aspects going for it before launch. As I mentioned earlier, it was an extremely successful title in South Korea for starters. It was also a PVP-lovers game and those were still hard to come by. Sure, there were plenty of games with PvP, but a large portion of Aion’s endgame content was dedicated to it and at the time, there weren’t a lot of titles like that to choose from. And none of them had Aion’s feather in the cap, so to say. 

One of the most anticipated aspects of Aion was being able to fly. Once characters hit level 9, they went on a quest to become an immortal called a Daeva and gained their wings. Finally, combat was going to involve three dimensions instead of only two! Unfortunately, everything was not as it appeared early on. 

For months, it had appeared as though you could fly anywhere and for any length of time. The truth was far less entertaining. You could initially only fly for 30 seconds at a time. Even when you got an upgrade, that still only allowed for 60 seconds.  This became a huge point of contention during beta and early launch. Needless to say, folks were less than happy with this discovery. 

In fact, the early days after launch looked grim for the title. Aion was extremely grind heavy and the promised aerial combat that was previously heralded as a genre-changer quickly looked to become little more than a cheap gimmick. Fortunately for all parties involved, enough fans stayed loyal to the game to allow the development team to continue making changes and improving the game. It may sound like an easy task, but it was anything but. Keep in mind that NCSoft has shut down more major MMOG titles after launch than any other company to date – Auto Assault, Tabula Rasa, and City of Heroes. 

While the road may have been rocky at times, the team persevered and deserves to be congratulated on their success. Here’s to another 4 years of happy gaming for them and their fans. Congratulations!


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