David Reid Interview - Page Two

Ten Ton Hammer: It probably means that someone hasn’t come up with a term for everything yet.
Ten Ton Hammer: It probably means that someone hasn’t come up with a term for everything yet.

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 opportunity.

NCsoft will be making big announcements about a majority of their IPs in the near future.

Ten Ton Hammer: What’s the most exciting part about joining a team like NCsoft and really diving into the MMO market?

David: 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 plastics before.

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 are Lineage’s 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.

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?

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.

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 strong.

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.

Ten Ton Hammer: If you were to change one thing about current massively multiplayer games, what would it be?

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.

Aion is extraordinarily beautiful, but David knows that it needs to be more than just that.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything you can tell us about upcoming NCsoft games?

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.

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.

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 the U.S.

David: 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.

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.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers and NCsoft fans?

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!

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