When you talk about the future of video games, the one word a lot of people cringe at is "MMO". Oftentimes the word is associated with shallow game experiences, poor UI and copy-cat gameplay mechanics from World of Warcraft. Well, one developer thinks that all those copy-cat MMOs, free-to-play titles and online games are the sure-way of the future.
According to GameIndustry, Gabriel Leydon, CEO of Addmired, mentioned during a speech at the D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, that the Asian developers are just better at making the next 10 years of games than Westerners...
"They make better and better games than most western developers. There's something the Americans don't get yet, that the Chinese, Korean and Japanese developers are much, much better at making the next ten years of games than they are."
Leydon explains that the Asian markets are very well saturated with MMOs, free-to-play titles and mobile games that are well developed for the territory. Companies like Aeria Games, NCSoft and Nexon are capitalizing on the trend of free-to-play titles and MMOs, and even market analysts have pegged the South-East Asian territories to reach $41.3 billion in annual revenue by 2014. The region already brought in an impressive $19.4 billion during 2009. Leydon further says...
"It's brutal. The model for acquiring users is insanely complicated," ... "We've been doing this for three years and it keeps changing, it's very hard. It can be profitable but we can also throw money down a black hole. Most of our players don't play a second session. But the rest stay and play and if they stay long enough they end up playing and we can run a business."
It's not just about money, though...Leydon's comments reflects the fact that Japanese, Korean and Chinese developers understand their market and what they want. It's not to say that they don't have retail and digital stinkers, but for the most part they cater their games to an audience that craves the products they're offered. We're just starting to see a recent trend where a lot of Western-centric MMOs have gone from pay-to-play to free-to-play, including DC Universe Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online and Champions Online to name a few, showing that developers are definitely flexible.
Also, when you look at where a lot of Western developers stand, many are just trying to find a niche or mass market to appeal to...we've seen a lot of studios closing throughout 2010 and 2011, including RealTime Worlds, a Codemasters' studio, several EA studios and a few from Activision.
While the situation is a lot more complicated than 'X' dev is better than 'Y' dev -- looking forward, it does seem like a lot of the Asian markets have a clear direction of where they are heading and their developers seem to understand how to get them there. The real question is whether European and American developers can offer noteworthy, marketable products outside the AAA category for a wider audience over the next 10 years.