File This Under “Quotes That Will Surely Never Come Back To Bite Us In The Butt”

“I believe the performance of Aion in the US and European markets will be very successful. … We are guessing that Aion will be — could be — the second [most] successful MMO in the US market next to World of Warcraft”.

~ NCsoft CFO Jaeho Lee

A thought: at what point, exactly, did the whole MMO community — devs, players, what have you — stop trying for #1?  This whole “it’s just too big it’s impossible to do so we might as well be in second place” mentality is the hallmark of exactly zero great achievements in human history.  Oh, but I guess WoW defies even the weight of all history.  My bad.

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26 thoughts on “File This Under “Quotes That Will Surely Never Come Back To Bite Us In The Butt”

  1. Toxic August 14, 2009 / 12:02 pm

    Well, perhaps Mr. Lee figured that making bombastic statements about beating WoW is a great way to provide a stick to be beaten with when you don’t beat Wow. How many times did Jacobs 500,000 sub statement get used to make WAR look bad?

    It’s a smart play to me; humble, realistic, ambitious.

  2. Ravious August 14, 2009 / 12:16 pm

    When you are talking to people that buy gobs of stock, you play a different game than when you are writing dev letters to your gaming community.

  3. Sven August 14, 2009 / 12:16 pm

    Sounds more like something the developers mom would say before she taped his game to the fridge next to his crayon drawing of superman.

  4. Hatch August 14, 2009 / 12:25 pm

    It’s really hard for a new MMO to compete right out of the gate with something as established as WoW. Aion has a lot of polish and improves on WoW in a lot of ways, but it’s inevitably going to be shorter on content. A game like that could grow to compete with WoW, but it’s not going to get 5 million subscribers in America the day it comes out. WoW itself certainly didn’t.

    In fact, that’s the main reason I probably won’t ditch wow completely for Aion and/or CO, even though they both look really good. I’m worried that there won’t be enough content in those to keep up with what’s available to me in WoW.

    Now, if Blizz keeps half-assing their patches like they did this time (honestly, it’s closer to a quarter-ass, if even that), then maybe it will become a different story.

  5. Anjin August 14, 2009 / 12:42 pm

    Darn it, Toxic beat me to the punch.

    Remember this:

    I really want to catch up with him this year if I can, if he’s got the time. I want to know what it’s like to design a game that makes millions of dollars a month, millions, and is still considered a failure. – Tycho

  6. Kev August 14, 2009 / 12:43 pm

    I totally agree with Toxic. Being confident that you will one day beat the best is one thing… being overconfident and talking smack is a totally different thing. Speak easy and carry a big stick – that is what Aion is doing. The company does not seem to be hyping it up all that much, but the fans certainly are. Although the game is more linear than WoW in a lot of ways (at least in the lower levels), I have to say this game feels a lot like WoW when it first came out – in good ways. I could come up with the pros and cons for you, but what’s the point? Nothing is perfect, lots of games sound great… this one is a lot of fun and very addictive. I love PvP, asian themes, and polished, complete games… so this one will keep me until the next good one comes out. I don’t expect to invest 2 or more years into it like I did WoW due to the linear questing… but who knows what the future holds.

  7. Snafzg August 14, 2009 / 1:23 pm

    I’m going to have to disagree Syp. While I’m sure everyone secretly wants to dethrone WoW’s #1 status, it would be career suicide for a CFO to make such claims in an earnings call. 😛

  8. Chris August 14, 2009 / 1:23 pm

    I’m in camp with Toxic too. If he came out and said they were aiming to be #1 the masses would announce them a failure if they didn’t hit that goal. There’s a decent chance they actually could hit the #2 mark, so it’s a lot more realistic of a statement to make.

  9. Tesh August 14, 2009 / 1:37 pm

    I still think it’s idiotic to try to out-WoW WoW. Make your own game and try to make money at it. If it catches on and a few years down the road, hits some pathetically narrow metric of “success” (number of subscribers) that somehow beats WoW, great, your game has staying power and probably doesn’t suck.

    Swinging for the fences all the time, every time is a great way to let a lot of strikes past, and prompts all sorts of steroid abuse. Better to play a solid game and look at the long run.

  10. Syp August 14, 2009 / 1:54 pm

    You don’t have to out-WoW WoW. You don’t have to even make any ludicrous claims. But there’s this general sentiment — from developers and generally accepted among the playerbase — that there’s really no point to trying to be #1, to be the best any more. That we’ve gotten our hopes up too many times, too many games have let us down, and now it’s all a race to be #2. That’s called lowering expectations, and it’s a sad mentality to see. I don’t have to see developers claiming that they will outsell WoW, but I surely hope they’re working their butts off to make a game worthy of that possibility.

  11. Syp August 14, 2009 / 1:56 pm

    @ Snafzg – And I’m quite sure the #2 statement is going to hurt him just as bad.

  12. canazza August 14, 2009 / 2:07 pm

    I wish developers would stop going for “We’ll be number x” – whatever number it is.

    Success should be determined by Income/Costs like every other new venture is. Projections should be realistic.

    Saying “We’ll be number x” is just marketing hype and spin and is generally based on nothing but figures plucked from the air. (unless ofc you’re saying “we’ll be number 10”)

  13. Tipa August 14, 2009 / 2:24 pm

    Didn’t both LotRO and WAR come out swinging for #2 as well?

  14. Green Armadillo August 14, 2009 / 2:27 pm

    A few years back, a baseball player signed a contract that contained a bonus clause if he won the league MVP, or if he came in second behind Barry Bonds. I don’t think he ever came anywhere close, but it was a similar “yeah, I’m number 2!” statement.

    This quote is a slightly different situation from all the Mark Jacobs statements of this time last year. Mark made a point of aiming his statements squarely at the general public – they were as much advertisement as real prediction.

    By contrast, when the investors who paid for your development budget come knocking, you have to tell them something, and you would prefer for that something to be that their investment will pay off. They’re probably expecting you to give them an overestimate anyway, and if you tell them that you expect to be a top 5 MMORPG, they might start at the bottom end of that range, round down from there, and start panicking.

    But yes, now that you mention it, this does sound vaguely like the kind of statement that could look bad for the game if it isn’t number 2 come launch day.

  15. Slymie August 14, 2009 / 2:28 pm

    I think it comes down more to wording than anything else. He’s saying Aion will be the second most successful MMO, after WoW, not that it will be second quality/enjoyability to WoW.

    I agree with you Syp that new games entering the markets shouldn’t kowtow to Blizzard or lower their hopes/expectations and game quality simply because there’s no way to topple the giant. I don’t think that the folks at NCSoft have done that though. They know they have a polished, enjoyable and addictive game. They know the grind is sufficiently long enough to give them time to get new content out and keep the hamster treadmill going. More importantly, they know how publicly shaming it can be when you throw down your gauntlet and then knock yourself out stumbling over your own feet.

    Could he have worded that statement better? Sure. But I think the way he said what he did still conveys the attitude of “Hey Blizzard! We’re coming for your subs, and we can actually take them.”

  16. Syp August 14, 2009 / 2:37 pm

    @ Tipa – Yes indeedy.

    @ Canazza – I think you’re right. The thought I posted above was to say that all companies should try for the best, the top, the #1, no matter what they end up being. And maybe we all do get way too caught up in subscriber numbers and placement, for sure.

  17. Green Armadillo August 14, 2009 / 2:49 pm

    @Canazza: The only problem with judging on income vs costs is that you’d have to disclose your income and your costs. Companies guard this information jealously, because they’re under impression that it is less damaging to find out that the population numbers are down when they start merging servers.

  18. Tesh August 14, 2009 / 3:10 pm

    But how do we define #1? How do we define success? Pinning your metrics entirely to comparisons with WoW is a fool’s errand.

    WAR could be argued to be the best PvP MMO out there, Darkfall could be argued to be the best hardcore MMO out there, Guild Wars may well be the best team-based MMO, but neither WAR nor DF compares to WoW in those holy grail subscription numbers, and GW doesn’t even use the metric at all.

    My point is that we’re not using very good metrics to gauge success, and angling to be #1 at something might well be something other than “more subs than WoW”.

    As such, that these guys are letting WoW metrics mold their definition of success is the failure, not trying to be “second best”.

  19. spinks August 14, 2009 / 4:39 pm

    Tesh: Well, they’ve let WoW pretty much mould their definition of everything else 🙂

  20. Dblade August 14, 2009 / 10:18 pm

    Maybe he doesn’t really care about achievements in human history, but just being realistic in terms of what they can do. I wish more companies would be as honest, because it can come back and hurt them-Killzone comes to mind on the PS2, and Too Human on the 360.

    Anyways he’s right, every account I’ve read of it says pretty much “second place”-a well polished, but derivative game without any real thing to unseat WoW. That’s not bad at all, and it may very well be second place, which is pretty good IMO in terms of audience and sales.

  21. naamah88 August 14, 2009 / 11:53 pm

    For what its worth, I think it is a realistic and not overly bombastic statement. With very little to come back and bite them, which is exactly what happened to Mark Jacobs and Mythic with their statements.

    For one, they did not put a hard number to it, which is the exact thing that got Mythic in trouble. Mark Jacobs made his 500, 000 remark and that set a hard goal they had to reach to be considered profitable. Aion’s goal is much more nebulous.

    Secondly, by setting the goal as the “number 2 MMO, behind WoW” it shows that they think they have a strong product that can compete with any MMO out there, including WoW. It may not do it right away but they expect it to do so eventually.

    It is a very obtainable goal. Aion will likely be the unfortunate death knell for WAR, barring a miracle patch before September. AoC is hanging on by a thread. LotRO, while very successful, has its player base but never seems to rise or fall, same with EQ2.

    Upcoming MMOs, besides Aion, are either niche games or have a lot of questions attached. Champions Online will be successful but won’t touch WoW or Aion for that matter. Mortal Online looks like it will release with the same problems as Dark Fall and Fallen Earth has no hype at all.

    There is no real competition, as far as new games, until KotOR releases next year or later.

  22. Muckbeast August 15, 2009 / 3:21 am

    Tycho should stick to drawing funny comics.

    I really want to catch up with him this year if I can, if he’s got the time. I want to know what it’s like to design a game that makes millions of dollars a month, millions, and is still considered a failure. – Tycho

    Ask GM, Ford, etc. They make millions of dollars a month also.

    When your game cost $200 million to make, earning a couple million bucks a month doesn’t cut it.

  23. We Fly Spitfires August 15, 2009 / 5:05 am

    LOL, what an odd thing to say 🙂 At least they’re being realistic! Still, what does it mean? They could have 501K subscribers and be the second most successful MMO in the West 🙂

  24. Tesh August 15, 2009 / 11:07 pm

    True enough, Spinks. Of course, I’d call that a failure, too. 😉

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