It's hard to deny the powerful presence of Nexon in the
free-to-play market. The company's wildly successful href="" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">MapleStory
was one of the first titles supported by microtransactions to shoehorn
its way into the West. href="" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi,
another Nexon title has been in the top half of the href="" target="_blank">Top
Ten Free-to-Play Games for a long while, and the publisher
continues to look for the next game that will make a big splash in
Western markets.

Ten Ton Hammer's Cody "Micajah" Bye recently got a chance to
chat with Min Kim, Nexon America's Director of Game Operations, about
the status of the Nexon company, future plans, music, and more.

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is one of the giants of the industry.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is Nexon
feeling any sort of pressure with the economic problems the nation’s
had lately?

Min Kim:
Everybody’s feeling it. Historically, I think our games really take off
when we hit this kind of financial crisis. If you want to play online
games and you know these games are totally free-to-play, there’s no
reason for you do dump them unless you are cutting your Internet.

Ten Ton Hammer: How’s the
development of Sugar
going so far? I know you guys closed it down at the
end of December and it still hasn’t come back up yet.

Min Kim:
I don’t know if you heard we shut down our Vancouver studio [which was
working on Sugar Rush]
some time in January. Not to say Sugar
is dead. We’re still trying to figure out how we’re
going to do that. That
we definitely did feel, I mean, [with the current economic situation].
That was really unfortunate because we still believe in it.

So right now, we’re really focusing on launching fewer titles
but launching them better and putting more marketing dollars behind
them and hope eventually they grow. We know what titles in Asia work
for us, so bringing the ones that actually hit—really decent hits, or
actually homeruns for us—just branching off from that would be a good
way to introduce Dungeon
and Fighter
, which will be renamed for the States to style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Fighter Online.
It sounds a little weird to say “Dungeon” style="font-style: italic;">and “Fighter.”

Ten Ton Hammer: Yeah.

Min Kim:
Grammatically, it’s probably correct, but it sounds like The Killers
song, like, “Are we human or are we dancers?” [The Killers song “Human”
is found on the album Day
& Age

Ten Ton Hammer: [laughs] I
love The Killers.

Min Kim:
So they’ll change it to Dungeon
Fighter Online
, and that game is actually just taking no
prisoners out in Asia right now. It’s one of our biggest titles. It’s
probably doing better than MapleStory
in Asia. I think we’ve hit 170,000 concurrent users
in Korea. In China it’s hit [around] 1.5 million.

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delivered another hit with

Ten Ton Hammer: Wow.

Min Kim:
It’s kind of like a throwback to the old arcade style games.

Ten Ton Hammer: Ah. Like style="font-style: italic;">Gauntlet? Is that
what you’re thinking?

Min Kim:
It’s more like a Final
-ish type game. It totally looks like it came
straight out of the arcade. It’s very accessible and when we bring it
out here, I think that’s going to be the growing trend…people playing
games like that.

It’s a multiplayer online game, so you’ve got a lobby where
everybody’s kind of hanging out but you join up with three of your
other friends and basically hop in and go into instanced dungeons. It’s
a lot of fun.

If you look at the graphics style, some people might look at
it and say, “Yeah, I don’t know if it’s for me.” But if you look at it
another way, I think the graphics style actually makes it really
accessible. When we were playing another MMO, like [ style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi], [that]
people that haven’t played games like that before, they are really
hesitant because they don’t really know what to do. But I can see
someone will be playing Dungeon
Fighter Online
and their friend coming over and saying,
“Hey, move over. Let me try that.” It’s kind of the same for style="font-style: italic;">KartRider, too. So
we think the game’s really got a lot of reach.

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Love for
Diablo-style gameplay is evident in the need for a third
title in the

Ten Ton Hammer: So is it 2D?
I mean obviously it’s a side-scrolling type of thing.

Min Kim:
It’s side-scrolling. It’s really kind of like style="font-style: italic;">Final Fight.

Ten Ton Hammer: I love style="font-style: italic;">Final Fight! My
name is Cody, and there was Cody in the game. How could I not love it?
Does it have the same sort of RPG elements as normal MMOs?

Min Kim:
Yeah. Basically you can choose from five character classes and an
additional four sub classes below that. You progress and gain skills
and are picking up items. It’s very style="font-style: italic;">Diablo-esque in
some ways, too.

Ten Ton Hammer: Because it’s
all about action and hitting the button?

Min Kim:
Exactly. It’s not really turned-based. It’s about hitting stuff.

Ten Ton Hammer: How do you
guys pick the games that are coming out of Asia? Obviously some games
that do really well in Korea don’t translate very well [to Western
audiences]. Are there any times when you have made a mistake?

Min Kim:
It gets pretty complicated when you’re a publisher like we are and
we’ve got our own titles and third party titles. A lot of it really
isn’t just about the game. It’s about the relationship between the
publisher and the developer. A lot of titles we bring over are internal
titles so we have really tight relationships with those teams.

And having a really good relationship there magnifies and
multiplies your chance of success. Again, it’s going back to Asia and
seeing what worked and what games have been successful there for us and
what games we know, at least at the core, are games that can generate

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Will Nexon
send another
Mabinogi through its gates?

Ten Ton Hammer: Are there
any more big, full-featured MMOs like style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi that are
over there right now that you’re looking at?

Min Kim:
I think Dungeon Fighter
is going to be the big game for us. We think it’s going to be bigger
than Maple[ style="font-style: italic;">Story] has been in
the States. We really believe in that. That’s the one we’re spending
all of our money on right now. We trying to do a “less is more” focus,
and so that’s going to be the whole show this year.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are you
going to do the commercials like you did for style="font-style: italic;">MapleStory? Or
something like the 7-11 promotions. That sort of thing.

Min Kim:
We’re still developing our marketing time because the game is pretty
unique in some ways. We’re trying to figure how we’re going to do that.
But we’ll probably spend more money marketing for style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Fighter
than we’ve done for any of our games.

Part of the problems we’ve had is we bring games over here
that we don’t have necessarily all the resources to fund each of those
games responsibly. So the strategy we’re taking is “let’s just bring
our best titles here and then market those titles and operate them in
the best way possible and localize them well.

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understands that marketing is key.

Ten Ton Hammer: You guys
have definitely put a lot of effort behind style="font-style: italic;">MapleStory and style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi but maybe
not so much for Audition
or Combat Arms.

Min Kim:
We’re trying to figure that out with all of our games, how do we
present these games [the media]?

We’re constantly adding new content, but how [does the media]
know what’s basically the right content to highlight? What’s important
and what’s not? And so we’re trying to go with this type of expansion
method where we try to lump up a lot of stuff. Then [we] release one
gigantic expansion a year that everybody can focus on. We changed our
business model up for that, too. You knew that right? That we changed
our business model up?

Ten Ton Hammer: Yeah, with
the aging system in Mabinogi,

Min Kim:
Yeah, the rebirth card and we added two new races. That actually worked
for us, so we’re going to try to think of more ways to do things like
that. With Combat, we’re just constantly adding new features to make it
better. The game’s actually doing really well. We’ve added a lot.

Ten Ton Hammer: You guys had
a lot of competitors jump in the market last year. What do you need to
do to stay ahead of everybody else? There’s some pretty big ones coming
up, like target="_blank">Runes
of Magic
and href=""
Those games are doing really well.

Min Kim:
I’m hoping they all do well to be honest. A lot of it is in the titles.
What we’re trying to do is focus on marketing titles and how we talk to
[the media], like localization that we’re doing with style="font-style: italic;">Combat right now.
You might have seen the stuff about the “nut shot.”

Ten Ton Hammer: I did,
actually. That was funny because we had a bunch of “nut” press releases
the last couple of days. Somebody else released “flesh sacs” for their
game, and I’m like, “Oh, there’s a nut shot and there’s a flesh sac.”
[laughs] It was pretty funny. [Dreamlords
announced the flesh sacs—Ed.]

Min Kim:
What we did with that is we’re kind of just joking around, but it was
actually very strategic at the same time. The challenge that we have
with Combat
is that it’s a first person shooter. Unless you are a style="font-style: italic;">Counterstrike or style="font-style: italic;">Call of Duty [fan],
a lot of people just glaze over it.

It’s a first person shooter and it’s free, so there are
probably a lot of stereotypes that are going to pop up and all that.
Somebody in our office really related well to the whole thing by
saying, “Hey, you’ve got the Bruce Lee issue,” which style="font-style: italic;">Counterstrike is
basically Bruce Lee and any other game that came out after that was
basically stupid.

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successful means knowing when to allow gamers to use a nut shot.

How do we break that? We know there are some [popular]
features in the game, like the persistent stat tracking and all the
client features, and we’ll continue to add stuff. But how do you
convince gamers to give it a try?

Check out the nut shot video. The funny thing about that is a
lot of people are talking about it. A part of the strategy is if were
just to put out a video about the gameplay, would a lot of people have
looked at it? Probably not. But then when we put in the nut shot thing,
people are looking at the nut shot, and then they’re getting to see
what the game is looking like. So it’s kind of working for us in that
way. Like the Trojan horse that is getting us into Minor. It’s getting
us out there right now.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there
anything else that is coming up? You’ve talked about style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Fighter. Is
there anything else that you want to talk about?

Min Kim:
Dungeon Fighter
again has been the game that has been killing it for us out in Asia.
And I don’t know if you know, but we actually acquired the company that
made it. We didn’t build this internally.

Ten Ton Hammer: Oh really?

Min Kim:
So, we don’t buy a lot of companies, but this one we actually did buy.

Ten Ton Hammer: Because you
thought the game was that impressive?

Min Kim:
Oh yeah. Super solid. And Nexon’s gotten where it’s really good at
being able to take those titles and then branch them off into different
countries. As an international publisher, we can probably do more than
just a company doing it on their own for the first time.

Ten Ton Hammer: Thanks for
your time, Min! I wish you and Nexon the best and look forward to
seeing more about your games in the future!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our MapleStory Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016