‘Until Western developers learn how to do it better, you won’t see so many strong free-to-play games in the West’

Nexon: Most Western free-to-play PC games are ‘done badly’

Nexon CEO Owen Mahoney has criticised the way many Western studios develop free-to-play games.

Speaking to Develop as part of a feature on PC free-to-play to be published later today, Mahoney said a number of titles by Western developers using the business model had been poorly made, though of course there are still some breakout hits.

Nexon itself is a big player in the East, developing and publishing the biggest titles in free-to-play such as Dungeon Fighter Online, MapleStory and Counter-Strike Online.

Mahoney said despite this success however, he had noticed some opposition to free-to-play on PC in the West.

“Yes we are [noticing opposition in the West], mostly because so much of the free-to-play you see in the market – including the games from the big guys – has been done badly,” he said.

“Doing free-to-play well, which means you retain users year after year, is actually really hard to do. As an example, game balance in an online world is very different in free-to-play than in a package or subscription game and needs to be managed differently.

“Until Western developers learn how to do that better, you won’t see so many strong free-to-play games in the West. From Nexon’s perspective, we want to be working with Western developers who have a strong creative core and believe in fun, rather than near-term monetisation as their most important priority, and then bring to them our knowledge of free to play.”

Mahoney also said many in the game industry keep forgetting that fun gameplay must come before monetisation mechanics and marketing. He added this had been a particular problem during the last few years, noting whenever Nexon had got its priorities wrong, it had failed.

“The first priority for making a successful free-to-play game is the same as any other kind of game: Is the game fun?,” he said.

“Like any other online game, to retain players over a period of years you have to keep building on the original experience with new content and new ways to enjoy the game. Monetisation and marketing are of course important, but the core thing to remember is: if the game isn’t fun, you have no customers and therefore no monetisation and no reason to market the game.

“For some reason, the game industry keeps forgetting this, especially in the last few years, and wants to focus on everything but making a fun game. We found that when we make that mistake, we fail. I would suspect that the rest of the industry has found that to be true as well.”

The full article on PC free-to-play, which includes interviews with Wargaming, SmileGate and SupderData, will be published later today.

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