Androgynous Angels: Our Last, Best Hope For The MMO Industry

The Korea Times reports on the state of the MMO market in Korea. Hint: it’s lookin’ grim.

The demise of ZerA touches off a sentimental response from Nexon and other Korean game publishers, as it had been anointed one of the “big three” from the class of 2006 ― along with Webzen’s “SUN” and HanbitSoft’s “Granado Espada.”

At the time of their releases, the trio shouldered hopes to expand an industry that looked to be just entering its peak. Nearly three nondescript years later, the games have been reduced to examples of what can go wrong.

The article goes on to proclaim NCsoft’s Aion the next big thing based on, well, Korea needing a next big thing.

“The local gaming industry hasn’t seen a mega hit like Linaege or World of Warcraft in recent years, which increases the chances for Aion to create an immediate following,” said Janice Lee, an analyst from Woori Investment and Securities.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an NCsoft news story without somebody talking smack about Tabula Rasa, would it?

NCsoft, the kingpin of the local gaming industry, also has its own demons that need exorcising. The company is now reluctantly discussing whether to pull the plug on “Tabula Rasa,” developed by famed game developer Richard Garriott and the product of a seven-year, 100 billion won ($69m) investment.

Tabula Rasa is now looking more and more like a monumental bust, earning less than four billion won ($2.7m) in the first-half of this year. NCsoft can ill-afford having another expensive project blow up in its face.

Bear in mind that the Korea Times specifically has a long history of declaring Tabula Rasa totally dead, dude. Then again, this isn’t really limited to the Korea Times lately. Then again, NCsoft’s announcement of NC West would seemingly back up a distancing from the Austin studio. Then again, they totally said that it was full steam ahead for Tabula Rasa. Then again, what the hell do I know?

PlayNoEvil hits on another aspect of the story: when Nexon closed ZerA, a free-to-play microtransaction title, they let players cash out their assets for Nexon cash. Not quite the same thing as a refund (since it simply means you spend that money on other Nexon games) but still an interesting precedent, backing up the inherent percieved value of F2P microtransactions.