I’m not trying to put down Korean game companies. Despite anything bad we can say about their MMO games, they seem to be doing okay for themselves. But the question is, would they know a good thing when they see it? 3 years later WoW is now an unqualified success in Korea with about 2 million of WoW's 9 million world-wide subscribers coming from the Korean market. But how did they think WoW would do back at release?
Well here is an email from a guy at our Korean publisher written Tuesday, 6 April 2004. I found it while cleaning out some old folders in Outlook.
Subject: World of Warcraft feedback from KoreaFirst thing: he says 20,000 "maximum concurrent users." He doesn't say "subscribers" nor does he say "online users" which is good because giving that English is his second language we wouldn't want to pass too much judgment on what may be a translation issue. But even giving them the benefit of the doubt, at 2 million subscribers you can bet WoW's concurrent online users is still much higher than 20,000 players. And he does clearly say that the game will only do well with hardcore game players and will fail like other Western games that have tried to penetrate the Korean market.
Here is some feedback from 10 industry insiders(developers and marketing managers).
Overall, Korean developers released their initial tension on WOW.
Many forecast WoW will be end just like other western games in Korea.
It is only good game for hardcore target but not more than that.
They are expecting maximum concurrent users will be 20,000.
The Biggest weakness is keyboard movement, Character look and weak characteristic of items.
Also weak party play elements are mentioned many times.
● Strong Points
+ Well optimized. Geforce 2 friendly, good game play on Pentium 800
+ Overall world design and atmosphere is good.
+ Fun quest and every efficient
+ There are many ways to get XP, feel like enjoying real adventure
+ Efficiently managed packet data
+ NPC is very active, which give alive world feelings.
+ Sound support is great, easy to notice and handle when error occurred
+ Light and fun PVP
+ Maintained strong point and improved weak point from Diablo
● Weak Points
+ Movement, it is not mouse point and click. Have to be adapted
+ Character taste is quite different, which make obstacle to immerse in game world.
+ Item collection is not convenient. One more step to collect them.
+ Unstable balancing. Colouring for level difference is ambiguous.
+ Item system is not stable. There are many items are abandoned in game world.
+ Uneven HP recovery for each races
+ Weak item identity
+ Not strong party play leading.
Take what you want from the strong points they are pretty straight forward. Lets jump right to the weak points:
Point and Click movement, the bane of our existence back then. Blizzard did eventually capitulate and put in an optional point and click movement system. It went in during the final stage of the beta and was in the game when these guys were playing. If what I’ve been hearing is true, nobody uses it even now.
Character taste, they hate the ‘cartoon’ characters, fair enough lots of Western players said the same.
The item collection thing, what he is talking about is having to click on the mob’s corpse in order to loot them. In most of the Korean MMORPGs when you kill something all the items drop directly to the ground. I should note here that in most of those games they drop right to the ground where anybody can pick them up, not just the player who defeated the mob. So he is saying they don't like the extra step of having to click on the corpse and then loot.
Coloring again refers to items. He is saying they are saying the game’s itemization is unbalanced and they think the way they color the names of items to show its power/rarity is ambiguous.
The item system being unstable is his comment on the vendor trash items found on mobs. He is saying that useless items liter the game world. I assume at this point that they didn’t get far enough or didn’t understand the trade skills to take those items into account. But there are "grey" items which are just meant to be sold to vendors. It is actually a very good sub-reward system on top of straight coin reward. Coins add nothing to your inventory; you can just keep getting more. Items on the other hand take up inventory space and you can run out of room. It is a way of giving you money, but you have to manage your inventory and go back to town and sell them to a vendor to actually get that gold. I’m trying to remember what Korean MMOs I’ve seen with vendor trash items; they do tend to blend together after awhile but I’m sure the vendor trash thing has never really been just a Western game design element.
Uneven hit point recovery. I think they didn’t follow that one of your character’s stats affected your hit point recovery rate. Actually I have a hard time believing that is what they meant here. Maybe that two different character from different races had different hit point total, which again is still based on your character's stats. I dunno.
Weak item identity I don’t understand.
Not strong party play leading I don’t understand either. If you measure it up against something like Lineage they might be talking about the Prince/Princess class who are the only characters who can create a blood pledge and lead their followers to take over castles in game.
After he wrote that email he linked us to a Korean site that tracks games played in PC cafe's in Korea. I watched it for several months and Lineage, Lineage 2 and WoW were always right up there together with very little difference in numbers of players between them. Note that is Lineage 1 and 2 as two separate entries. I don't think I still have that link but I'd be interested to see how that data comes out today.
Take what you will from all that, I'd ramble on some more but I really do need to get to bed.