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NCsoft responds to City of Heroes speculation

Eliot Lefebvre

A couple days ago, we had a post detailing some speculation on what City of Heroes: Going Rogue meant for NCsoft West, City of Heroes, and the future of the entire branch of the company. Ryan James, director of corporate communications for NCsoft, took the time to issue a direct response to us regarding that post. We also got an opportunity to ask him a few questions regarding NCsoft's current and future direction, which helps provide some context and some behind-the-scenes information to offset the speculative nature of the aforementioned post.

The official response is as follows:

"We wanted to respond to your post from November 2 on City of Heroes and clarify a few points for you and your readers. In short, the piece offers a rather sensationalist view of NCsoft West and our success thus far.

We're very proud of what we've accomplished here in the West – we have several major MMO franchises, including City of Heroes, Lineage and Guild Wars. And our newest addition to the NCsoft portfolio, Aion, has just seen a very successful launch here in the West. As you point out, we have had to make some tough portfolio decisions, but this is very much par for the course for any major game publisher today. That being said, we remain extremely proud of the Paragon team's accomplishments with the City of Heroes franchise. City of Heroes is still the world's most popular super-powered hero MMO. Even with an increasingly crowded landscape, City of Heroes remains the gold standard for comic book-inspired MMOs – it has stood the test of time and we're excited to be bringing Going Rogue to players next year.

As you note, the author of Vicarious Existence is indeed 'alarmist' in his assessment of NCsoft West and our future. We couldn't agree more. On the contrary, we're optimistic about our future."

Following the statement, Mr. James took the opportunity to answer a few questions about the company's game portfolio and future plans. Take a look at the questions and responses after the break. Is NCsoft West going to continue in the trend of having a large MMO catalog that may, at times, be pruned for the games that are being most successful? Or has the development mindset shifted to a smaller and more robust catalog?

Ryan James: Every games publisher has to make portfolio management decisions that won't always please everyone. We've focused on striking a balance between maintaining our key franchises, cultivating new ones and also remaining profitable. But it is about quality over quantity. The MMO market is very crowded with many major titles competing for players'
attention, and the MMO player knows when a game is great versus when it's just OK. So it's all about delivering a top-quality product and keeping that customer coming back for more. That's been our focus and will continue to be.

Is there a "minimum" level that NCsoft looks for in terms of the performance of their games? A certain minimum number of subscribers, et cetera?

There is not a blanket minimum level we apply across the board. We look at every game differently and relative to the audience and subscription model. So there is not a set minimum. We evaluate each title in our portfolio separately.

Guild Wars and Dungeon Runners both used alternatives to the usual subscription model, with Guild Wars being free-to-play once the game was purchased and Dungeon Runners using a now-more-common microtransaction
model. Will NCsoft West be continuing to try alternative subscription methods, or is the monthly fee the preferred plan for the company at this time?
Yes, we absolutely will continue to look at alternate methods. Our track record speaks for itself - in fact, we already do have different models running in different territories for several games. What works in one territory or country may not necessarily work in another - same with the game and its audience. It's important that we make sure that the model works for the region or country, the game's audience and the specific title.

Finally, perhaps most direct: there was a very long gap between City of Villains and Going Rogue, which makes City of Heroes a very long-running game with a very small number of expansion packs. Will that number be increasing, or will the game's current model of large patches and the occasional expansion continue for the foreseeable future?
I don't agree with this assessment that we've only delivered "large patches." We've released more content, new features, enhancements, etc. for free than almost anyone. With City of Heroes, we've offered an innovative approach to evolving the player experience through delivery of updates to the game in the form of "Issues." We've delivered 16 of these Issues since the game's launch more than five years ago - that's a significant amount of content. City of Heroes continues to be the world's most popular super-powered hero MMO, in no small part because of our ongoing devotion to the title and its community: the fact that we've delivered these 16 updates since the game's launch and have Going Rogue on the horizon only underscores that.

Thank you for your answers and your time.

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