NCsoft will launch its long-awaited massively multiplayer online role-playing game “Blade and Soul” in Korea on Thursday, setting up a showdown with the most popular “Diablo 3” to dominate the local online game market.
The online game developer said Wednesday that the new online game will be launched at 4 p.m. during a free open beta test. It is planned to be commercialized here within two weeks.
So far, 210,000 people have signed up for their own game characters on 13 different servers through a character production service that was offered June 15-17, according to NCsoft officials.
|NCsoft’s “Blade & Soul”|
|Blizzard Entertainment’s “Diablo 3”|
The game was also picked as the most hotly-anticipated game in the Chinese online gaming market, surpassing Blizzard Entertainment’s “Diablo 3” on Wednesday, the officials said.
It will be available for Korean users with plans to expand it overseas as early as August, an NCsoft official said.
“Localization and customization of the online game need to be conducted ahead of the launch and we project it to be introduced in the Chinese market as early as August and then expand it to other regions such as the U.S., Europe, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan,” the official said.
New ‘big bet’ online game
“Blade and Soul,” which was developed over the past six years, is an online game in the MMORPG genre that is expected to surpass the popularity of NCsoft’s hit multiplayer online games “Lineage” and “Aion.”
Aion stood at first place for 100 consecutive weeks among online games played at the country’s PC rooms after its launch in November 2008.
“Blade and Soul” was announced for the first time in August 2008, and 50 billion won ($43.35 million) was invested in its production.
NCsoft’s chief executive Kim Taek-jin explained in a message posted on the official game website on Monday that the inspiration for the game came from the stories of heroes he heard at a young age.
“That was the start of ‘Blade and Soul.’ I hoped to begin with an adventure that focused on securing daily life values and transform it into the story of a hero who saves the world,” he said.
“I also wanted to unveil a Korean-style game to the global audience so such factors were reflected throughout the development process.”
Seen by many as a competitor with Blizzard’s “Diablo 3,” the new game features 800 characters, complete with the voices of 100 different dubbing artists, and 20,000 sound effects to level up the player’s experience, according to NCsoft officials.
The game centers on martial arts and enables people to perform actions like mixed martial arts, Thailand’s Muay Thai and Chinese Baji Quan.
It also presents a cinematic in-game video that is about 90 minutes long ― similar to the duration of a single movie, its officials said.
Despite “Diablo 3” and “Blade and Soul”’s blockbuster statuses, both online games are currently facing ongoing difficulties.
While Blizzard has faced a public outcry for choppy server connections and its refund policy, NCsoft recently announced an organization-restructuring plan shortly ahead of its new game’s launch.
The company’s reorganization effort takes place after its rival game firm Nexon acquired a 14.7 percent stake of NCsoft, becoming the new No.1 stakeholder.
However, NCsoft’s shares rose as high as 273,000 won at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, up for a third day in a row due to high expectations for the game.
“A number of rumors surrounding Nexon are floating around due to the decision of Nexon and NCsoft chiefs, but this is a time when the success of ‘Blade and Soul’ is critical for its company value and stock price,” said Kiwoom Securities analyst Ahn Jae-min.
“Through a recent visit to NCsoft, I was able to see the firm’s confidence that it could lead the online game’s success, exceeding its hit game ‘Aion’’s number of simultaneous game players and sales figure,” he said.
Lee Sun-ae, an analyst at IBK Securities, also said that the company’s competitiveness and profit is most likely to increase with the success of “Blade and Soul” as well as its restructuring of staff.
“There’s a high possibility that the new game will benefit from the game being released in China,” said Lee. “Its top stakeholder, Nexon, is likely to have a positive impact on the firm as it has already formed a good relationship with the Chinese game firm Tencent.”
By Cho Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)