Historically, western games have had a hard time breaking into Asia. Many companies like Sony Online Entertainment have tried and failed to break into the market with games like Everquest 2. So far the only western MMOG to break into Asia with critical success is Blizzard's World of Warcraft.
Given how big of an issue this was an entire panel devoted to this subject called the 'West's place in Asian Online Gaming' and some very valid points where brought up as to why western games have such a hard time breaking into Asia.
Many people pointed to localization and translation of the games as a major issue, but in reality the culture and mentality of the players is actually much different in the east than it is in the west.
An example would be something as simple as the concept of 'content'. In the west an MMOs, content is essentially locations, weapons, objects, characters, and monsters. However, in the east, gamers places value on universe events, community, and persistent worlds.
According to the developers on the panel, eastern gamers don't want instanced areas and player versus environment - you've gotta have good Player versus Player action in a persistent world so that people can see the resulting carnage. Items in game also play a big deal and should really end up changing through players hands much faster as they attempt to kill each-other off for the best stuff. The ability to create guilds and communities as well as events run by the game's creators keep the game interesting long after shipping. Given these hurdles - it seems impossible for any western MMO makers to really break ground in Asia.
But there seems to be an exception to the rule: Blizzard. Blizzard has such good name recognition with how much people enjoyed Starcraft and Diablo in Asia that World of Warcraft was a no-brainer for their market - even if it does break a few of the rules.
While the panel seemed optimistic of the West's ability to further penetrate the Asian market, I'm skeptical on there being one 'right' way to launch a western game in Asia. It seems unlikely anyone to really penetrate the market in the way that WoW has - the only exception being Hellgate:London because of the influence from the Diablo team members that left Blizzard. Is there a formula for success here that can be followed to be successful in the Asian market or should you just do the best you can and handle it on a case by case basis?
Taking a look at the Asian-made MMORPGs that I've beta tested, they really are not that different from what the western companies produce. The main difference are the characters being anime in most cases. As far as gameplay, it is true that they don't do much in terms of instancing, but then, neither does WoW. There are the instances, but most of the world is not instanced and if you play a PvP server, you can have all the PvP action you want. So it's really not that different from what the Asian market is after. I really don't see it as being because of the company so much as the fact that it really is close to their own games.
Its weird how many popular Western games are from Japan (Mario, Metal Gear Solid) and yet they also seem fairly Western. In fact, the two I mentioned were ground-breaking successes. There's also a lot of Western references and western-type humor. We accept these games into our homes and lives as if they were straight here from America. Yet, when I went to Japan I actually saw very little Western games. Its weird how much we take from them yet our games rarely get seen over there.
I think it's more of a cultural issue, though not being from there or even having visited, I am just guessing. I think that the west is all about adopting things from other countries with open arms. And I think the east is a bit more reluctant to bring in foreign things and that they don't really want foreign companies to really get a foothold there.
On the other hand, Vietnam (I think that was the country) has Starcraft championships with huge payoffs for the winners, so I think Blizzard has a foothold over there already, anyhow.
Matt Neuteboom Wrote:
Western pop-culture has been borrowing stuff from Asia for a really long time, even in some stuff we're only recently finding out about. Oleg will put it much better than I can, but Star Wars, an undisputed western cultural icon, was heavily influenced by japanese culture even thought most of the people who watched the series back in the day didn't have a clue about it.
And it happened in rarer, obscurer examples too. The whole idea for Robocop (the character itself), for instance, has a striking number of similarities with some japanese TV series from the 70's or so (can't remember the name right now, though).
This became much more obvious when manga and anime broke in big time in western culture, and references/tributes/rip-offs started being much more blatant, such as in The Matrix.
So maybe what we perceive as western references, might in fact be references to western stuff that was influenced by eastern stuff in the first place.