Ten Ton Hammer: It
probably means that someone hasn’t come up with a term for
David: *laughs* And
that’s the challenge of marketing, right? It’s your
job to find out who your customer is and making sure your customer
knows why they should be interested in your product.
There is that wide base of people who don’t have the
Alienware PC with custom video cards or 80 hours a week to spend
playing these games. But they are more lucrative for us, as an
industry, than people who are only playing free to play games or only
spending a few hours a month on a game.
It’s just not this binary “core vs.
casual”. We really need to spend a lot of time thinking about
what’s happening there in the middle.
The console space has really begun to figure this out through price
reductions, as they’ll eventually hit that space at some
point. In the console space, and especially the PC market in
particular, really have coined the term for who those people are and
what those people are really looking for. It’s a great
Ten Ton Hammer:
What’s the most exciting part about joining a team like
NCsoft and really diving into the MMO market?
NCsoft will be making
big announcements about a majority of their IPs in the near future.
I’ve gotta tell you that I’m just so excited about
landing in the job that I did. You think about how fortunate you are to
be working in the games industry in particular, let alone for a company
like NCsoft. I mean, I’ve been a consultant helping to sell
Ten Ton Hammer: In your
opinion, how do you feel about the massively multiplayer gaming
marketplace? Does it still have room to grow? Where should companies be
looking to bring in more players?
It comes down to a question. First of all, do you believe the MMO is
the future of games?
And I do. You look out at the landscape, and yes you can see that there
and World of Warcraft’s
out there. These are big, big, big games that have AAA budgets and huge
core audiences. You look out and you can also see games like Club Penguin and MapleStory.
But you can also extend it even further. Look at Facebook or LinkedIn
or MySpace. There are elements of those experiences that are very
MMOesque. You can compete with someone to see how many people you have
on your friend’s list. At one point I’d come in
every morning and check my LinkedIn to see what my number was and who
the new people were that I could connect with. There’s
something very appealing and very fundamental to the human condition
about this and being involved in this competitive/cooperative gameplay.
Believe me, I’m still a very big single player gamer, but
there is this really explosive opportunity for the games community at
large, and the MMO genre is right at the tip of the spear of it.
Second, I just don’t know if there’s a company that
I would say has a portfolio of product as high quality, strong, and
diverse as what NCsoft has been able to build over the past few years.
We have a number of big franchises in terms of intellectual property,
along with a variety of business models. We’re really
encouraged with what we’re in Exteel as our first real
product in the micro-payment space.
Fundamentally there’s a lot of great opportunities here, and
we’re one of the top two or three companies in the world, no
matter how you cut it. It’s great to be in this growing
market with all of its challenges and be with a world leader.
It’s hard to beat.
David: I definitely
think it’s growing, and I think there’s a lot of
attention and money chasing the shallower end of this market. By that,
I mean the larger audience of people that will be less identified with
the gaming category. And I think that’s fine.
Ten Ton Hammer: If you
were to change one thing about current massively multiplayer games,
what would it be?
We at NCsoft will spend some time there, but I still feel
there’s a great opportunity with the core audience and core
market. Those are the people that will spend $40 - $50 on a product at
retail then spend money on a subscription. I really don’t
think that market has matured at this point. The number of people
playing these games continues to grow.
It may not be the same headline grabbing thing that Disney acquiring Club Penguin may
have gotten, but at the end of the day I get more fired up about making
money. The profits and revenues of these businesses that
we’re in are incredibly rich. The growth there is very, very
Don’t stop betting on that core market. There’s
money to be had there, and success will come to those people who
ultimately come out as winners in that space.
David: To me,
it’s less about the product experience itself, which
by-and-large is very high quality and high integrity. There are some
exceptions, but the majority of games are of this high caliber.
However, for me, I’ve always been somewhat intimidated by
PvP, and really in the vocabulary of that concept. The notion of
walking into a game and getting slaughtered because I’m a
n00b is a tough one. Yet I won’t hesitate for a minute to
jump into a Halo match.
What do we as an industry need to do to make competitive play feel less
like this very all capitals “PVP” and a little more
like a dozen guys playing a pick-up game of basketball or some players
jumping onto Xbox Live for a Halo match.
There’s something about the experience on the console side of
this multiplayer stuff that Xbox really got right an did well. If you
want to be the best player in the world, Xbox Live is there for you to
realize your passions there. But if you’re just looking for a
bit of fun in a pick up game, you can do that too.
Somewhere in the process, the MMO genre fell off course. You hear more
about these stories of people getting off work early to make sure they
were on time for a raid, and that shouldn’t go away. But
there’s a lot more to do, especially in making that socially
competitive aspect much more accessible and easy to jump into for a
larger group of people.
We here at NCsoft are thinking about that very earnestly, which is
probably the case with a lot of people in the MMO space. This idea, to
me, is a very large opportunity for the next generation of MMOs.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there
anything you can tell us about upcoming NCsoft games?
extraordinarily beautiful, but David knows that it needs to be more
than just that.
David: Well, Aion is the only
game that we can really talk about at this juncture. There are several
other games in-production right now, but we really have nothing to
announce at this time.
Ten Ton Hammer:
There’s already a large group of players talking about it,
especially our community members from Europe. I guess there’s
more attention being put on the game in Europe than there is here in
We are really fired up about Aion
though. It’s one of these things where you’ve got a
game that’s just drop dead gorgeous. I believe a lot of buzz
about the game will be focused on the fact that NCsoft has set a new
bar for graphics in an MMO. But that’s not really enough to
make a game a huge hit. You’ve gotta have a game under there.
We haven’t announced much about Aion yet, but what
we are seeing is very exciting. I expect it to be a very successful
product for us as a new intellectual property, and it will continue to
build on the strength of the NCsoft portfolio that we have.
We’re very excited about what we’re doing, and we
have a couple of events on our horizon where we’re going to
be talking about the game and showing it to players. We want to get
people excited about the game, and we actually want to hear feedback
from you and your community as well.
It’s an interesting property because at some level
we’re back to the comfort thing. At some level, I think what
you’re seeing with Aion
is similar to what I saw when I was at Xbox with Project Gotham Racing.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there
anything else you’d like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers
and NCsoft fans?
There is a sensibility in terms of the style. It is what it is.
Americans just don’t care as much – as a community
of people – about style and fashion as the Europeans do. So
there’s a aesthetic to Aion
that’s very similar to what we saw in Project Gotham Racing.
Yes PGR was successful in the States and made a lot of money for us.
But it was more well received in Europe.
I expect Aion
to be successful in the States, but the relative buzz meter between
Europe and the U.S. seems to be following the same track as PGR.
David: There are a
couple of things in general that we’ve danced around that
I’d like to talk about.
NCsoft definitely has some exciting stuff that we’re going to
be talking about – things about City of Heroes, Guild Wars,
Tabula Rasa, Dungeon Runners, and Exteel –
these are all announcements that are coming. Your community is probably
sniffing around harder than most to find the clues about this sort of
thing, but we will have some big announcements coming up.
Like everyone else, we’re going to be at a bunch of these
events. We’re going to Comic-Con and Penny Arcade Expo. Folks
are definitely welcome to stop by and chat. I love getting face to face
with the consumer and not just talking to the press all the time.
We’re going to be there and be there in force. Look forward
to seeing you!