It’s a rise to prominence that is almost unparalleled and is largely down to its commitment to the rise and rise of the MMO market – a sector perhaps currently regarded as the preserve of hardcore gamers.
“I think with MMOs we are definitely getting there,” begins NCsoft marketing director Dirk Metzger. “There is still a large percentage of gamers out there that maybe don’t know what an MMO is, but we are getting more and more press coverage now, not just in games magazine but in the lifestyle press as well.”
And having built its business upon the classic MMO fantasy stylings of Lineage and Guild Wars, NCsoft is now working on making massively multiplayer games featuring much more than orcs, wizards and magic.
“I think maybe Auto Assault was ahead of its time in that it was critically well received and was more of an action and MMO hybrid. In Europe, there is still a strong demand for the fantasy type of setting. But we are the type of company that is not afraid to take risks and push things forward. We have Tabula Rasa which is more of a sci-fi based action role-player. We really want to break the mould and do something different with MMOs.”
But NCsoft’s ambitions go much further than breaking stereotypes – it also wants to break out of the more traditional territories and take advantage of the opportunties present in Eastern Europe. “We are expanding our reach at the moment and we have already released fully-localised Russian and Polish versions of Guild Wars. In territories where the market is very PC-focused the potential is really huge. Territories like Greece have a big internet and competitive gaming culture and Lineage 2 is very popular over there.”
And of course part of that is making the shift from PC-only games to being able to offer a cross platform-solution for budding MMO gamers. “We get asked about moving onto 360 and PS3 a lot, but all we can say is that we are looking into it and we are definitely interested,” says Metzger. “We will move into that market at some point but I can’t give you a specific timeline.”
Having already made huge strides in the games industry, NCsoft is on the verge of something even bigger. While it celebrates Guild Wars’ second birthday and builds a vast support infrastructure for its next major project, Tabula Rasa, the console market seems to be key to its evolution. If NCsoft’s next ten years are as fast-moving and as its first, the publisher has a genuine chance of becoming one of the industry’s true power players.