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Appealing to the Gamer - An Interview with NHN USA's Philip Yun

Posted Tue, Dec 23, 2008 by Cody Bye

Gamers are at the heart of everything we do at Ten Ton Hammer and they’re really the individuals that every MMO company is trying to win over. Recently, NHN USA - North American publisher of F2P games like Rohan: Blood Feud, Gunz and Luminary: Rise of the Goonzu - showed their dedication to the gaming community by re-envisioning their overview portal ijji.com, making it more appealing to the “hardcore” gaming crowd. On top of that, NHN USA recently appointed a new CEO, Philip Yun, to lead their gaming enterprise in the North American market. The Ten Ton Hammer staff caught up with Philip and asked him about his gaming past, where he hopes to take NHN USA, and what sort of impact gamers will see from the “new look” of NHN.


Philip Yun, CEO, NHN USA

Ten Ton Hammer: To start, can you give US gamers a brief synopsis of who you are, Philip? What kind of games do you enjoy? Why did you decide to come to North America and lead NHN USA?  

Philip: First and foremost, I’m an avid gamer and have been for many years.  I actually flew to Japan to stand in line for more than a day just to buy a PS2 (at that time PS2 was not available in Korea).  Later on, I was part of the team that launched the PS2 in Korea.  

Being a full time CEO, husband, and father makes it hard to squeeze in all the games I want to play, but I still try!  I enjoy a huge variety of games ranging from FPS, MMORPG, RTS, and even puzzle games.  If I had to pick a favorite game of all time, it’d probably be Starcraft.  There’s definitely something amazing to that game if people are still playing it these days, so many years after it came out!  Over the years, I’ve played a lot of games but lately I’ve been into online MMO games, especially for the PC – and besides playing ijji.com games, I’m still playing a lot of WoW.  Online gaming is the reason I joined NHN USA – I really believe the future of games lies in the interactions that gamers have with each other.  

Ten Ton Hammer: For most companies, the CEO acts as a driving force behind the direction of his or her employees. Where will you be pushing the company? What can players expect to see from the future of NHN USA?  

Philip: As I mentioned, I think the future of online games lies in the interactions that gamers have with each other.  That philosophy is at the core of how I drive the company, both externally and internally.  I know a lot of people say the same thing, but we are really about building a sense of community around ijji.com and our games.  So, to answer your question, we just re-launched our website to have a more ‘hardcore’ feel to reflect the games we offer and the community that plays them.  We also have a big line up of new games coming in 2009 – including Huxley, the Unreal Engine 3-based MMOFPS.  You can also expect to see even better service, which includes more events to engage players.

Ten Ton Hammer: In the past, many of the Korean companies that have branches in the US tend to have a disconnect between the games that are released in Korea and the games hitting the shores of North America. Are you planning on alleviating this discrepancy? Might we begin to see consecutive releases of new titles in Korea and in the US?  

Philip: It’s no secret that a lot of the games you find on portals are developed by Korean studios, so they are originally developed in Korean.  Korea is a huge test bed for online games, because of the way the infrastructure in Korea developed, and this leads to a great source of content.  When we bring them to the U.S., we have to localize and prepare the games for North American gamers before releasing them – from translating text to re-writing quests to make them more appropriate and appealing for a Western audience.

For games developed in the U.S., we are definitely keeping our eyes open for new and exciting content.  If we find some great games that originate in North American and would be a good fit for ijji.com, we’d probably have the US release before any Korean release.  We are definitely open to that idea.  It’d be great to this happen actually, and it probably will in the future (saying with a grin).

NHN USA hopes to bring games like Webzen's Huxley to North America.

Ten Ton Hammer: Most gamers aren't particularly familiar with main branch of NHN in Korea. What kind of games are being developed in that nation right now? Might we see any big blockbuster sort of games coming out of the company to rival what we're seeing from NCsoft in Blade and Soul and Aion?  

Philip: You might be surprised to know that NHN stands for “Next Human Network”.   And a core part of that network is online games.  Currently the NHN family has three game development studios: NHN Games, Npluto and most recently Webzen.  I’ve seen some early stuff from all three of those studios, and as a gamer myself, I’m pretty excited.  Some the projects we’ll see come to market include NHN Games’ MMORPG C9 (Continent of the Ninth); an MMORPG from Npluto; and, of course, the MMOFPS Huxley by Webzen is on its way to ijji.com in 2009.  Will each of these games be a blockbuster?  They sure have the potential to become very successful.  

Ten Ton Hammer: On that note, will NHN USA continue to focus primarily on free-to-play games? Or will it be expanding to include more titles in the future?  

Philip: Personally, I don’t like to think of “free-to-play” (F2P) as a genre, or even category of games.  It’s more of a distribution model.  We’re giving the players the opportunity to set their own price for the game.  As a gamer playing through ijji.com, I get to decide how much I think my experience playing each game and being part of the community is worth.  Also, any game can be made F2P (some easier than others) so I don’t think it affects what titles we will release in the future.  

That said, while F2P is the distribution model we are using now, we’re not closed to other models if it makes sense.  However, F2P is where our expertise and experience is, so I would say most of the games you’ll see us release will follow this model.

Ten Ton Hammer: What is your first priority at NHN USA? What are you going to be adding, changing or revising?  

Philip: Our first priority is the gamers.  Really, if it weren’t for the gamers we wouldn’t be in business, right?  It’s kind of broad, but that’s where our priority lies.  This covers a lot of aspects of our business, such as having great GM’s, good support, bug fixes, regular updates, etc.

Priority number two is NHN USA employees.  NHN USA is a pretty tight knit company.  A lot of us play games together outside of work, and I think it’s that tightness that allows us to work effectively as a team in meeting priority number one.

If you haven't, make sure you check out NHN's Rohan: Blood Feud.

Ten Ton Hammer: The economic market seems to be on everyone's mind lately, and NHN has surely felt the impact of the downturn. Will this effect any upcoming NHN games? Or is NHN fairly solid in its place as the largest Korean Internet company?  

Philip: Well, our parent company, NHN, is a really large company in Korea.  The economic downturn has affected everyone I’m sure, but we’re not terribly worried. We already made decision for the games coming 2009 and we don’t foresee any reasons to change those plans.

Ten Ton Hammer: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers and NHN fans?  

Philip: Is this the spot for a shameless plug?  I guess there are two main things I want to say.  First, if you haven’t already done so please check out ijji.com.  I’ll let you guys make the decision if you want to stick around after that.  For those already in the ijji community - thanks!  We appreciate each of you and look forward to bringing new games to you, and continuing to expand and update the games you are currently playing on ijji.com.

Secondly, I want to encourage everyone to keep bringing their friends to MMO games – ours or anyone else’s.  I said it earlier, but one of the reasons I left Sony to come to NHN was because I really believe in MMO gaming, and as a gamer and a business person I believe it is the future of games.

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