High Quality Korean MMOs Stage A Comeback to Western Market
Except for pickles, cellphones, plastic surgeries and television dramas, on the list of famous South Korean exports, we should add one more thing – massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.
Until 2012, the Korean video game industry generated more export revenue than all other Korean contents industries combined. And online games alone created 64.2% revenue, which made Korea one of the largest producers of MMO games, with more than 37% of the entire world market. The success of Korea’s online game exports is due to not only the favorable governmental policy but also the massive hits of several Korean MMOs in North American and European markets.
Among the games that made great success in the western market, NCsoft’s MMORPG Aion: The Tower of Eternity is one of the best examples. Released in North America and Europe in 2009, Aion became the best-selling PC game of September 2009. It also managed to remain at No.1 on both the Steam and Direct2Drive charts for several weeks. By 9 November 2009, the game had sold nearly 1 million copies in the west, with 500,000 units sold in the US and 470,000 units in Europe.
Another successful example is Maple Story, a 2D, side-scrolling MMORPG by Wizet. In 2009, the game hit more than 136,000 concurrent players in North America. (The game launched in NA in 2005) In 2012, the game’s NA publisher Nexon America announced that Maple Story has passed 9.2 million registered users.
The great success of these games created a Gold Rush among Korean game developers. They rolled up their pants and ran into the river of Western Online game market to pan for gold, which resulted in a large amount of Korean Online games flooding into the western market. However, quantity never guaranties quality. In the big Korean Wave of Online games, many problems were rolled out.
During the period of Gold Rush, almost all Korean Online games that swarmed into the western market can be described as “fast-food” – they emerge and die quickly and most of them are with little nutritional value. When these characteristics of fast food are projected onto Korean Online games during this period, they were embodied as the phenomena below:
Grinding is a term used in video gaming mainly refers to repeatedly kill AI-controlled monsters, using the same strategy over again to advance their character level to be able to access newer content. Grinding has been disparaged by many players as a symptom of poor or uninspired game design. During this period of time, many grindy Korean MMOs sprung up. One example is Dragon Nest.
It was developed by Eyedentity and released in NA in 2011 and EU in 2013. The end game grinding of Dragon has always been complained by players: when players reach the max level cap, the major thing left for them to do is to grind dungeons for better equipment or materials, and complete them over and over. In Dragon Nest, monsters in the dungeons are limited, and grind them requires no difficulty, which makes the end game grind quite boring.
Actually grinding exists in Korean MMOs all the time, even in those quite successful ones, like Maple Story. The truth is that Maple Story has always been accused of being a grindfest. But it doesn’t affect the fact that it being a massive hit in the western market. Perhaps its success makes it a model for other Korean MMOs to follow. Other Korean grinders include Silkroad Online, Ragnarok Online and Continent of the Ninth.