Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Having and Eating Your Cake

NCSoft proved that it is possible to have your cake and eat it too with the announcement yesterday that the US and EU release of Aion Online would be at version 1.5. There isn't a single MMO that has shipped that couldn't have used additional development time for bug fixes and additional content. Even the venerable World of Warcraft. Think WoW at release was pretty good? How about if it released with the stuff that got patched in a year later?

Unfortunately, the real world often dictates that MMO's ship before they are ready for prime time. Companies don't have the luxury of waiting a whole year without a revenue stream just because a product isn't fully polished yet. Look at the recent releases of AoC and WAR, for example. I daresay their user retention rate would've been higher if they had released a year later with the fixes and content that they have now.

Ncsoft got around this problem with the staggered releases. They originally released Aion Online in Korea November of last year and plan to release the US/EU version this September. While staggered releases are nothing new, what is novel about this one is the order and understanding of the different market expectations in the different regions. Rather than release the western version a short time later, they opted to wait until there was enough additional content to satisfy western palates. Pretty crafty there, NCsoft.