In August, MMO specialist Trion Worlds made its debut in China with Trove. We speak to CEO Scott Hartsman for tips about moving to this lucrative region.
Trion Worlds has been behind MMOs such as Rift, Defiance and Trove. How would you assess the state of the MMO market?
It is in very good health. When you look at it as a whole, it is still expanding. The thing that people are comparing it to – erroneously – is the launch of World of Warcraft. It was 2004, there were about six MMOs out there. You look across the landscape these days and there are hundreds. Players are spread across so many more games. As long as the number of titles keeps growing, they're going to keep spreading out.
What we are also seeing is that the generation of people who grew up playing MMOs for four hours a night are now more interested in games they can play for ten minutes at a time. We're seeing a shift. Online is still strong. A lot of classic MMOs have become more approachable online.
Trion made its debut in China with Trove this year. How would you assess the Chinese games market?
China is maturing very rapidly. We're seeing a lot more different, distinct types of games. If you go back just a few years, you'd see a lot of similarly-styled classic fantasy types of releases. These days it's different. Trove had a massive presence at ChinaJoy, as did Minecraft and Overwatch.
While the Chinese market is generally player vs playerfocused, there is this growing audience that is more interested in co-op and more creativity. Chinese games are expanding their interests very strongly.
Why was moving to China such an important decision?
The size of the population is part of it. It's just a part of our mission in general. If you look at our games over time – titles like Rift and Defiance from our first generation of tech – they were very much products of the territories they launched in and on the platforms they launched on.
With our next couple of generations, we started making games so they could be taken to more locales and platforms. That has been an intentional decision. The way we make games, especially with the way free-to-play economies work, means you always want to be in front of larger audiences because then you're making more money to invest in your games.
What tips would you offer companies looking to launch in China?
Make sure that your business model is working for that market and make sure it fits the culture. When I say culture, what I mean is talking to one of our producers over there. The concept of copyright, for instance, doesn't culturally have the same meaning that it does over here.
A lot of people view piracy as a normal part of how business works, which is why free-to-play took off in the way that it did – because those games can and will be freely copied as the paying happens later. That's one of the reasons why you see in China in particular, free-to-play is super dominant. Things can be copied and everybody gets to still make money from their games.
The other tip is that if you are not going to be able to be a native company in China, find and work with a great partner who knows the market and loves the games that you are making, who has great insights into the business model and what customers want. Make sure that your expectations and theirs are very similar fromthe outset.