Turbine is busy gearing up for its Korean launch of Lord of the Rings Online. The title is currently in closed beta in Korea and moving toward limited open beta. Fantasy titles are hugely popular in the country, but the enthusiasm with which beta testers are greeting LotRO has likely been spurred on by the popularity of the films directed by Peter Jackson.
MMORPG's Jon Wood recently caught up with LotRO Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefel to discuss Turbine's plans in the east. They discussed some of the details about LotRO's forthcoming Korean launch, which revealed how this might impact North American and European subscribers.
Steefel discussed some of the issues Turbine faces in bringing LotRO to a different gaming culture. Localization goes far beyond simply translating between languages, as anyone who's ever played a poorly localized title from Asia can attest to. North American players tend to prefer quest dialogue that's descriptive but open-ended enough to keep the quest interesting. Korean players, however, prefer very specific descriptions in their text, removing guesswork and, presumably, allowing them to move through game content faster. So, Turbine isn't only translating English quest text into Korean; they're reworking the quests to fit the Korean playstyle.
The Korean focus on PvP is intense, to say the least, so Turbine is making changes to the Player vs. Monster Player system. Turbine will also look at both markets and see how the game can be improved in ways that satisfy customers on both sides of the globe, rather than trying to create two separate games.
So, what will be the effect of the Korean launch on subscribers in the west? Steefel said, "Any time that we add anything for any particular region, it's going to be a part of the overall game... unless we absolutely have to, we're not going to do anything specific to a particular part of the world."
MMORPG asked Steefel about whether Turbine would adopt the free-to-play/item mall business model for the Korean version of LotRO. While he didn't have a definite answer as to how Turbine will earn revenue in Korea, Steefel's response is interesting, as it may hint at changes to the company's business model in the west as well: "What we don't want is to ruin the game itself or any of the design or balance of the game... Turbine in general is looking at how we can do that in some of our games coming up. There's no question in my mind that that's going to be a part of the model going forward, period."
Turbine is looking at alternative business models for existing and future titles, as a way to give maximum value and content to players willing to pay subscription fees, yet other options for those players with limited time and budgets. The interview at MMORPG has more details about Turbine's plans for the east, and what this might hold for players in the west.