So Many Asian MMORPGs So Few Western Ones

The free to play MMORPG space seems to be crowded with Chinese MMORPGs and Korean MMORPGs. There are easily 200+ free to play MMOs available, but only a handful of them can be considered ‘Western’. This gap exists because micro-transaction based games have always been big in Asia, while ‘premium’ or ‘subscription’ based games have been big here in the West. This divide has existed because of the disparity of income between the East and West. Game developers in Asia needed to make money, but couldn’t charge upfront for their games or even require a subscription as people were generally poorer. In the West though, that wasn’t a problem. That was in the past though, today – the East has enjoyed rapid economic growth, but it seems like the free to play business model has stuck.

grand fantasia 310 damage

Grand Fantasia Gameplay – A Typical Korean MMORPG

Games like MapleStory, Ragnarok Online and Dragon Oath are now popular both in the East and the West. There’s no doubt that Asian game developers make up a big chunk of the entire micro-transaction market, but are there some Western games out there? Well, yes. Electronic Arts just began entering the space last year with the release of Battlefield Heroes and BattleForge – both extremely ‘high quality’ free to play Micro-transaction supported titles. Earlier in 2010 they also released Lord of Ultima – a browser based strategy MMO that aims to compete with Evony and Jagex’s War of Legends. So it seems like more and more Western developers are entering the space, but they’re still a minority in this growing market. Even Sony released their own free to play game last year – Free Realms. Since released the game has enjoyed some success, as it has over 5 million players worldwide now.

battlefield heroes fighting

Battlefield Heroes – One of EA’s First Free to Play Games

I feel that free to play will become bigger and bigger here in the West, which will force more traditional game developers like Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and Sega to start embracing the change rather than ignoring it, which is what they’ve been doing for the most part.

What do you guys think? Will Western game developers keep ignoring the growing popularity of free to play? Or will more and more developers jump on the bandwagon?

By, Omer Altay

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