OnNet USA is the American subsidiary of OnNet Korea a developer of multiple free to play online games. The American branch of the company acts solely as a publisher through their portal site Games Campus.
Today, OnNet releases their newest game, a free to play third person shooter titled Manga Fighter. We spoke to YJ, Manga Fighter's Producer, about the project and the free to play model in general.
What is the relationship between OnNet Korea and OnNet USA?
OnNet Korea is an software developer creating search engines and other similar products. OnNet USA is an online publisher of free to play games. They're two different ideas with two distinct identities.
OnNet USA opened it's doors three years ago with the launch of our golf game Shot Online.
What did you learn from that experience and what has been carried over to Manga Fighter?
We weren't very well organized which was a big challenge so this time out we made sure to have the proper management in place. That's the real risk area with a project like this you need excellent management.
The other important lesson concerning constant content updating. With a free to play game and a virtual goods revenue model you have to make sure that there is always new content for the players. We found that to be the key to player retention.
It's hard to discuss MMOs without mentioning secondary markets for virtual goods and currency. What are your thoughts?
We're very aware of the secondary markets and the emerging issues associated with them. At this point we're taking a neutral stance and kind of waiting to see what the industry trend as a whole is.
Why have the global launch of a manga style game with the virtual goods model in America. Why not use the Korean market where both of those things are more mainstream?
Well in a lot of ways this is a new game for any market. It's a fast-paced third person shooter aimed at a younger audience and there's not much out there like that. We believe the US is a great testing ground for our new content.
Just three years ago, some declared the free to play model wouldn't work. Today it's beginning to get big. It's not quite mainstream yet but we're heading in that direction and America is a huge potential market. There are a lot of gamers in America.
What about the release cycle. OnNet ran two beta tests and a boot camp? What was that?
The Boot Camp was just a term for our third beta. In fact even now that we've opened the game up we still haven't implemented all the commerce aspects of the game. This is more like an open beta and then we'll see how the market responds before launching the money aspect.
What kind of marketing has gone into the launch of the game?
We haven't done any big budget marketing campaigns but viral marketing has worked well for us. We're also mailing collectible cards to players with a code on them. The code unlocks premium content in Manga Fighter and down the road we're looking at getting these cards into retail outlets.
The other thing we're excited about is the possibility of getting some famous faces from the rest of the manga universe in game. I can't release any details yet but we're in discussion with some major publishers.
Thanks for your time YJ and good luck with the launch of Manga Fighter.
Play No Evil offers up a good article breaking down why Free To Play is a superior engagement model to subscription or retail. Matt Mihaly from Iron Realms jumps in to offer a counterpoint on MapleStory's user base (i.e. 57M is a gross number, not representative of active users) and offer up Habbo Hotel as another North American virtual item sales success story.
In regard to Maple Story's user base, all 57M of them may not be active, but most of them are probably unique due to the fact that in China and South Korea, Maple Story requires users to enter their Social Security Number to sign up. So there likely aren't very many duplicates, world-wide.
Regarding Habbo's numbers, Paul Thind (Habbo's GM) reported their active uniques at 7.5M world-wide (1.7M uniques/month) at last month's Virtual Goods Summit. Habbo's annual revenues sit north of $65M.
From the article on Play No Evil, I especially like this passage:
The choice of prices are important. Buying blocks of currency or subscriptions for less than $10 means that it is an impulse buy. $50, or even $20, to buy a game is above the "whine factor" for parents. Nexon's ability to get payment cards into Target (see previous article) was critical - online game play becomes an impulse purchase at the checkout line. I think this is an area where many casual game companies "don't get it". Their prices are above the impulse purchase level.
In a related story, Fox News - that bastion of sound journalism - just did a piece on MapleStory and game addiction.