Fusing East and West
Cartoon Network and Developer Grigon Entertainment's Global Vision for the Cartoon Network MMORPG: FusionFall
By Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle
August 15, 2007 – When FusionFall (official site) is unleashed in 2008, it will be the story of how your character interacts with characters like Dexter, Ben 10, Mojo Jojo, and the Powerpuff Girls to save the world from impending destruction by the ravenous green goo of Planet Fusion. However, for Cartoon Network and Seoul-based developer Grigon Entertainment, FusionFall is also the story of a historic partnership between an American publisher and a Korean Developer to produce a game with truly global ambitions.
Byung-Kyu Cho (left),
Ten Ton Hammer recently met with Byung-Kyu Cho, Grigon Entertainment's Chief Executive Officer, and Paul Condolora, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cartoon Network New Media, to learn what makes FusionFall something entirely different from a standard Korean MMORPG port. (The term "port," ostensibly short for "export", is used to describe a game designed and sold domestically and later localized for sale abroad – some examples include Maple Story, Hero Online, and Sword of the New World).
One differentiating factor is that Grigon is developing the game for the teen-and-under market not only in the world's number one consumer of MMORPGs (South Korea) and the US (ranked roughly fourth in MMORPG sales and subscriptions), but also for emerging markets like China. The barriers to entry are as great as the potential profits and incredibly diverse: everything from varying legal hang-ups – like operator-enforced play session time limits for kids proposed in China- to a clear preference for a monthly subscription model in the United States over Korea's comparative comfort with a revenue model fueled by micro-transactions (sale of in-game items or gameplay session time for actual money).
The differences extend even to broad differences in gameplay styles for MMOG gamers around the globe. From East to West: click-to-move vs. keyboard (WASD) movement, "grinding" through monsters to progress vs. storyline or quest-driven progression, and most markedly, the importance of the in-game persistent organization of players (or "guild") benefit as a whole over individual progress.
Yet none of that deterred Mr. Condolora, who began talks with seven Korean developers in September 2005, fourteen months before Cartoon Network actually began broadcasting 24/7 in South Korea. For Condolora and Cartoon Network, what's lost in translation (linguistically and culturally) didn't compare to the hurdles he'd face by choosing a North American developer. "There were a couple of things that didn't work in the American developer's favor, from our perspective. One is, most of them focus on hardcore gaming - we were clearly focused on casual gaming. Secondly, the cost was much greater. And then the third thing was - and I think this was the most important thing - creatively we weren't in-sync with each other."
Cartoon Network was, however, creatively in-sync with Grigon Entertainment. " From the beginning, though, we felt Grigon was the right partner- primarily because of the success of Seal Online , which is a casual cartoon-based game," Mr. Condolora explained.
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