[NXNA] Min Kim Explains Why Free-To-Play Is The Future Of Gaming
As the traditional console video game industry faces many challenges with the transition to next generation consoles like the Nintendo Wii U and the next Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation, the online free-to-play games space is booming. Korean game publisher Nexon has been a pioneer in free-to-play games, microtransactions and online gaming since 1994 with hits like MapleStory, Combat Arms and Vindictus.
Min Kim, the new Chief Executive Officer of Nexon America, helped establish the North American subsidiary in 2006. Since launching MapleStory in the U.S., Kim has been at the forefront of new business opportunities, including the adoption of digital content cards at retail – Karma Koin. Kim talks about the future of video games, the role mobile will play for the company, and why next generation consoles may look more like PCs, in this exclusive interview.
How has the transition been for you to your new role as CEO at Nexon America?
The transition is going well, and this is an exciting time for us here at Nexon America. I am thrilled about the opportunities for Nexon America today and will have more to tell you in the coming months.
What are the challenges of coming up with new and innovative content to keep online gamers happy, and purchasing micro-transactions?
Gamers have a lot of choices about which games to play, and our goal is to consistently deliver compelling and immersive content that keeps our audience engaged. Our teams work hard to create content that will appeal to players and keep them coming back. With regards to micro-transactions, I personally think that it is important to focus on the value you are creating with the game. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but if players find value in the experiences of the game, they will find more value in enhancing their experiences through item purchases.
What are your goals moving forward as we see an influx of free-to-play games migrating from PCs to mobile devices to consoles?
While the majority of Nexon’s game development is in our core PC game business, which is robust and growing, with a great deal of untapped potential throughout the world, we also think that mobile presents some interesting opportunities. Our recent acquisition of gloops in Japan shows the kinds of opportunities we see in that market, and it also gives us the ability to expand our mobile business globally. As a company, Nexon sees significant opportunities in mobile in North America and we will continue to develop immersive games that appeal to all types of audiences, regardless of the platform.
At Nexon America, we believe the exciting chapters of the PC online business are just starting. We were the first to champion the free-to-play movement in North America, and we are very excited that the market is gaining momentum. Although mobile and console represent some interesting opportunities, I find the phrase “migrating from PCs” challenging. If anything, I feel like gamers are migrating to experiences on the PC every day and will continue to migrate in greater numbers as more titles are introduced to the platform.
What are the challenges of standing out from the crowd with so much competition in the free-to-play games space?
A crowding market in the free-to-play space is nothing new to us. Nexon pioneered free-to-play games from Asia, but we were not the only game in town. The success of our games has inspired hundreds of games to come out of that market with only a handle being successful. At the end of the day, the true challenge is running great games with long-lasting communities. Our business is more of a marathon than a sprint. Those games that can run a marathon will be the ones that stand out from the crowd over the long term. In Korea, MapleStory will celebrate its 10th year in 2013 and it is bigger than ever.
What role have social games and mobile games played in introducing a brand new casual audience to Nexon’s game library?
As a company, we continue to experiment with Facebook and, frankly, we are finding it is a pretty challenging platform on which to develop a games business. As we think about new platforms, however, we see significant opportunities in mobile in North America. What I think is fascinating and encouraging from social and mobile are the signals they transmit about the potential of the industry. Millions and millions of people who would not consider themselves gamers are showing that they are interested in playing games with others online. Massive adoption in the fundamental drivers of our business tells me that the future of online gaming is looking brighter than ever.
How do you see Nexon tackling the growing number of free-to-play games like HAWKEN, Firefall, Warface and Marvel Heroes that are targeting core gamers?
The more the merrier. I’m not sure why everyone thinks of this business as a zero sum game. Since founding Nexon America in 2006, I have always said that my interest was to entice as many developers and games into the fray as possible. It’s hard to have a market when it’s just us. Games like the above grow the addressable audience for all of us in the free-to-play space, and competition makes developers work harder. Developers working harder are always good for the consumer, so I see it as win-win.
What role do you see the traditional console playing as the industry shifts to next generation devices over the next two years?
We believe very strongly that the future of games lies in online and within online free-to-play games. If consoles can begin to truly embrace online, they may find new life. However, there are definite challenges to this evolution. Ironically, the more I imagine console makers embracing online, the box begins to look like a prepackaged PC.