Free MMORPG & Free MMOs

Archive for March 2009

It seems today that most  ’Free MMORPGs’ and ‘Free MMOs’ are developed in places like Korea, Japan and China. What I’d like to know is why more western companies aren’t jumping on the ‘free to play’ bandwagon as it seems like a lot of these games are becoming hugely successful. Just look at games like Maplestory and Atlantica Online. They’re such big hits and generate millions of dollars a month in revenues for their publishers. There is little doubt that the ‘free to play, but pay for upgrades’ business model works, so why are Western companies still making pay to play games?

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I wish I had the answer to that, but I don’t. It seems like just about every free MMO comes straight from East Asia. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m a bit tired of anime inspired generic grind oriented MMORPGs. I don’t mean to bash all Asian MMORPGs, as some are great, but they all feel a bit similar. Having companies like Electronic Arts and Activision-Blizzard churning out some free to play titles would certainly be interesting, as it would add some much needed variety to the genre because let’s face it, there is a world of difference between a Western RPG and an Eastern one. If you look at the current pay to play titles like Warhammer Online and Eve Online as they feel genuinely different than their Asian counterparts. Not necessarily in a good or bad way, just different. The difference between the East and West is most evident when comparing single player RPGs as the East is well known for their epic plot driven anime inspired titles like the ‘Final Fantasy’ and ‘Tales’ games while the West is better known for their stronger emphasis on gameplay with games like Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate.

2426  500x375 exteel battle fighting As it stands I think Eastern gaming companies are doing great in the MMORPG market as they’re making both pay to play games and free to play ones. One Korean company, NCSoft, makes pay to play games like Guild Wars, Lineage and Aion while at the same time has free to play titles like Exteel and Dungeon Runners. With the incredible growth of free to play titles in the last few years, there is no doubt in my mind that Western gaming companies will have to make some free to play titles unless they want to hand over that entire market to foreign competitors, which is unlikely. EA is actually on the right track, as they’re currently working on a free MMO shooter titled ‘Battlefield Heroes’ that will basically be a cartoony version of their popular ‘Battlefield’ franchise. ‘Battlefield Heroes’ is a good start, but I’d like to see more Western gaming companies enter the free to play industry sooner than later as it’d be nice to have some more variety.

Source:

http://mmohut.com/editorials/western-gaming-companies-should-make-more-free-mmorpgs

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One thing that is starting to annoy me in the free MMORPG industry is the shift in the type of items sold in cash shops. For those that aren’t familiar with the term ‘Cash shop’ it is the place where players can exchange real life money for in game goodies. Back when I first started playing free MMORPGs, cash shops almost always had strictly aesthetic items like clothes and accessories for sale that had no impact on the game. Back then it was considered taboo for an MMORPG publisher to sell items that would give an unfair advantage to those that paid over those that didn’t. As a player that rarely bought cash shop items, I felt that this was fair, as it rewarded those that paid by making their avatars look really awesome, but it didn’t imbalance the game. Maplestory for example, for a very long time operated in this fashion. Back then It didn’t sell any items that imbalanced the game, but today sells 2x experience scrolls and powerful equipment. GunZ: The Duel at one time also had a cash shop that strictly sold items that had no impact on the balance of the game, but today it sells a lot of over powered equipment that can quickly imbalance a game.

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So what happened? Why did free MMOs and MMORPGs suddenly start selling such powerful items in the cash shop? Money of course. Publishers like Nexon and IJJI can generate a lot more revenue if they offer better and more powerful items in their stores, as more players are likely to buy 2x experience scrolls than a shiny robe that only serves one purpose; making your character look cooler. I really don’t mind that much when publishers sell experience scrolls and equipment in their cash shops, as it’s their game, but I do get a bit upset when some publishers overdo it. Every one of IGG’s games, Tales of Pirates, Voyage Century, Godswar and Galaxy Online, for example, have such powerful cash shop items that their games just aren’t worth playing without a cash commitment. Those that purchase cash shop items in IGG’s games have such a huge advantage over those that don’t, which is a huge turn off for players that want to play for free.

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I’d personally like to see publishers sell only aesthetic items in their cash shops, but with the current trend it doesn’t look like this is going to happen anytime soon. It’s not that I don’t want to see publishers profit, I do, but I hate seeing non paying players quit a game over imbalanced cash shop items because it destroys the community. Publishers need to find a way to earn a profit without scaring away non paying players. One game that I think did this perfectly is Gunbound, as the game has powerful cash shop items, but has channels in the game that disable the effectiveness of all items, which evens the playing field. This gives the player a choice; he can play on the channel which allows cash shop items or the one that doesn’t. I’m curious to see which direction MMORPG and MMO cash shops will take, but only time will tell.

Source:

http://mmohut.com/editorials/the-evolution-of-mmorpg-cash-shops

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By, Omer Altay
Okay here’s an idea. Get this, an MMO farming simulator. I mean come on, who doesn’t love those fun Harvest Moon games that Natsume keeps churning out every year. Well, at least the 2D ones, most of the 3D Harvest Moon games tend to suck, with Harvest Moon 64 being the exception. I’m seriously surprised that there are no farming simulation MMOs out there yet, as there are so many whacky Free MMOs on the market that you’d imagine someone would have made a farming MMO. Just look at Racing Star: Come on Baby. It’s a baby themed kart racing game; how weird is that? There’s also a Shot Online which is a golfing MMO and Ace Online which is a Star Fox like aerial combat game. The fact is since there are a lot of creative MMOs out there, you’d imagine there would be at least one farming MMO, but unfortunately not.

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A baby themed racing game is just weird.

I bet a lot of readers are probably thinking ‘Who the heck would playing a farming simulator?’, but the fact is there is a huge market for it, as just try and count how many Harvest Moon games there are on the market. Seriously, just try counting them, I bet you can’t because The company behind Harvest Moon, Natsume, pretty much just churns out a dozen or so remakes of the same farming simulator and repackages it as a new game and people keep buying it. Just about every console and hand held system has a Harvest Moon game today. Natsume wouldn’t keep making these dang Harvest Moon games is no one played them so there is clearly a market for it.

How would it work you ask? Well simple. Ever player in the MMO would have their own plot of land, sort of like the actual Harvest Moon games and since this is an MMO each player’s farm would be its own ‘instance’. That’s really the only way I could imagine it working, because if there were to be a persistent world, it would have to be enormous to support thousands of farms at once and without instanced farms, players would just harass each others crops and farm animals with a sickle or something. Players could interact outside of their farm in the game’s town square where they can also purchase seeds, new tools and upgrade their farms. Crops could also be sold in the

I obviously don’t have all the details figured out, but it would certainly be interesting to see a game developer launch a farm simulator MMO. Another reason I’d like to see a farming MMO is because I’m tired of playing the same type of game over and over. There are seriously a dozen or so MMO shooters and most of them are unusually similar. Sure there a few great MMO Shooters like S4 League and Combat Arms but for every good one there are easily three mediocre ones. Unfortunately, this applies for a lot of other MMO Genres as well, like racing and rhythm games because there are easily a dozen or so racing MMOs, but only a handful of them are actually good games. I’d like to see MMO developers and publishers innovate a bit, and a farming MMO would certainly be innovative.

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S4 League is one of the few good shooter MMOs

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They should make an MMO Farming Simulator

By Erhan Altay

We’ve seen the release of big-budget free MMORPG releases like Atlantica Online and Runes of Magic but recent trends show that the free-to-play, ad and micro-payment supported model is spreading to other genres. With EA’s long awaited Battlefield Heroes now entering the next phase of beta testing and the recent release of id Soft’s Quake Live, it’s clear that major Western game publishers have gotten the hint that the free to play model pays. Even Sony, an early subscription based MMORPG pioneer, is experimenting with f2p in their upcoming game Free Realms.

But it’s not just large publishers getting in on the action. With the spread of the internet, hundreds of independent developers now have a platform to share their projects with the world. Smaller games like Soldat and Starport Galactic Empires are available for free. There are even programs that let enthusiasts make their own MMORPGs. Similar to the retail RPG Maker, these MMORPG makers come with premade sprites and resources but allow players to set many of the variables such as experience rates, number of maps, monsters, and so on. They also allow more experienced users to add their own resources and edit the source code.

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The third leg and perhaps the most important is the shift from pay-to-play to free-to-play happening in established MMORPGs. Already many former subscription based games have opened their gates for all to enter. Gravity has been the boldest in this field. Originally a publisher of traditional MMORPGs with subscription fees attached, their latest game release Requiem Bloodymare is free to play. Gravity’s two older games have also been re-released with the subscription fee stripped away. Ragnarok Online and Rose Online are now both free to play but supported with optional micro payments.

So now we know that this trend is happening. The question remains whether it will prove to be profitable. Already many publishers have found success but whether it this model will support an entire industry remains to be seen. Arguably the most successful f2p MMORPG worldwide is Nexon’s MapleStory which has reached a large audience in multiple markets, something few other games have managed. With millions of players in its native Korea, North America, China and Japan, Nexon has found the magic formula. Simple games with bright, vibrant graphics that appeal to a broad audience perform the best worldwide. Will other developers and publishers be able to emulate Nexon’s success with games like MapleStory or Kart Rider? Only time will tell.

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Is Free the Future of Gaming?

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I’m not sure why, but the Sci-fi MMORPGs seems to be one of the most under developed genres. Heck, even consoles only have a handful of Sci-Fi MMORPGs. How come this genre isn’t getting any love? You’d imagine that it would have the most potential, as the universe is huge and getting bigger every day. The only notable free Sci-fi MMORPGs today are RF Online, Zero Online and Megaten and none of them are really ‘wow’ games. Heck, RF Online feels more of a fancy fantasy MMORPG than a Sci-Fi one. The ONLY good sci-fi MMORPG out there is Eve Online, and that’s unfortunately a pay to play game. I’m not sure why publishers keep embracing the fantasy genre, as it’s seriously getting old. I’m simply tired of the fantasy setting, as easily 80% of all free MMORPGs are fantasy themed.

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If you’ve like me and enjoy Sci-Fi television shows like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica, I’m sure you’re itching for a good sci-fi free MMORPG as well. Just imagine it, large scale space battles, huge customizable ships and an enormous universe to explore.  Yeah I know, this sounds a lot like Eve Online, but even Eve didn’t even have land based gameplay or nearly enough player cooperation as it should have had. Wouldn’t it be something if every ship required a crew of 10 or so actual players to fly? All of the crew members would have to work together just to ward off an enemy attack and bigger ships would require dozens of players to operate. A game like that would be intense, but I doubt it could ever exist, as a game like that would only be fun if it had a massive playerbase.

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There are some Sci-fi themed MMOs and MMORPGs out today, but I’d like to see other publishers embrace the genre. MMOs like Ace Online and Exteel actually do a great job with the genre, but unfortunately there aren’t any real ‘great’ MMORPGs in the genre. I do have some respect for even poor sci-fi themed MMORPGs like Age of Armor just for taking a chance and trying to develop something different. I’d just really like to see a ‘great’ sci-fi themed MMORPG released, as currently the free MMORPG market doesn’t have one.

Source:

http://mmohut.com/editorials/more-sci-fi-mmorpgs-please

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When I first got into the free MMORPG scene I thought games like Ragnarok Online and Maplestory were the best of the best and nothing better would come in the free MMORPG scene. Well, to be fair, Ragnarok Online wasn’t a free MMORPG until recently, but for all intensive purposes it was still free as there were and still are countless private servers for the game, but my point is that after playing Ragnarok and Maplestory I figured the free MMORPG scene had hit its peak, as even though those games were great they didn’t have the same ‘feel’ as pay to play MMORPGs like World of Warcraft or Eve Online. They also didn’t look as pretty or have the same amount of content. Today though, the tides are turning.

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The quality of free MMORPGs has risen dramatically over the years. With the release of titles like Atlantica Online, Runes of Magic and Perfect World the gap between pay to play and free to play is quickly narrowing. These games have the same ‘pay to play’ gameplay quality to them and the visuals to back that up as well. I never would have even imagined that in a few short years the quality of free to play games would rise so fast. Not only are there great free MMORPGs on the market today that can directly compete with the pay to play games there is also an incredible variety of good MMOs as well. If I want to take a break from bashing Orcs, I can play one of the many good racing MMOs out there like Project Torque or Project Powder. These racing MMOs are on par with their pricy console competitors as well. Why on earth would anyone pay for racing games like Need for Speed when they can play Project Torque for free? Why should people pay for games like Counter-Strike when there are literally a dozen or so free MMO shooters out there?

Five years ago or so, gamers didn’t have a choice. If they wanted to play an online shooter, they had to pay. That’s what changed. The free MMO and MMORPG market has grown tremendously. There are now well over 175 free to play MMORPGs and MMOs. That’s without counting the hundreds if not thousands of prominent browser based games out there. With a new free game coming out almost every week, there really is no reason to pay for games anymore. The good things in life are free MMORPGs

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Source: http://mmohut.com/editorials/the-good-things-in-life-are-free-mmorpgs

EA gets more massive in Korea

J2M, a Korean free-to-play developer, was purchased by the megaublisher EA, expecting to deliver more MMOGs from existing and new IPs.

MMO efforts are being expanded by EA now it seems after seemingly being happy with the old Online & then Dark Ages of Camelot. Their BioWare studio made us aware of their sci-fi project, Star Wars: The Old Republic when they united with LucasArts less than a month after we saw Warhammer hit the market, saying it had more than 750K subscribers after just a month after launch.

Then after all that activity with Warhammer, by making another acquisition, EA made another jump into the MMORPG space. They went after J2MSoft inc., a Seoul, South Korea game development shop, to bring them into the Redwood City fold. Without revealing the financials of the deal, but in an overview of J2M (which was founded in December of 2004), its company overview, they revealed that it has $1M in equity along with 50 employees in Seoul.

Journey 2 Media (J2M) within the Korean PC market delivers free-to-play free MMORPG, their domain. With two titles now in beta testing (”turn-based shooter game Taan & Debut, a “multiplayer rhythm action” title) they have released the offline-online racer game RayCity.

Future projects are said to be new projects focusing on online games & well-known franchises from EA’s inventory. This isn’t the first expansion into the money-making Asian MMO space. By making a 19% investment in Neowiz, publisher of RayCity, said to be valued at $105M, in March of 2007 they came into the Korean game publishing market. Then a Seoul branch got around $21M last January.

There have been numerous comments on the publication of these announcements from the gamer world.

There was speculation now that EA would expand even into North Korea too now.

Others thought that not all Korean MMOs are bad. They cited Perfect World was good. Saying that they work differently, they questioned their money-making approaches & their ability to reach the levels of WoW (an obvious comment), however then they backed down & said that doesn’t mean EA’s games can’t be good in their own way & generate loyal bases of users. Quoting revenues from Maple Story the commenter says that they have the levels of players of WoW with only revenues of $390M a year. Feeling that more players are doing the free-to-play model a fewer number are paying for anything. Then he went on to draw the conclusion that they make less money while having as many or more players.

Others believed a culture clash was on the way.

Another had heard that a new free “Need For Speed” was being developed by EA Asia.

Others were optimistic that the current decent Korean MMOs are decent even with their low budgets now would do well with EA involved. They questioned whether MapleStory was developed in Korea.

Then thru a commenter we got a discussion started about the real number of subscribers vs boxes sold for Warhammer Online. They went on to say that WHO-Analytics tracked only 443K subscribers for those 750K boxes.

It is interesting to track the comments to these news articles as they reveal what the users & gaming community believes. Right or wrong the comments bring out good discussions.

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