I recently interviewed Nexon's Min Kim for Worlds in Motion, where I'm editor when not here at Destructoid. I cover bizness news related to online worlds, social networking, and MMOs that work on the free-to-play, pay-for-goods model. Nexon is, as you know, like, a ridiculously successful company in this space, and one of the more amazing things is that in this crazy 3D world in which we all live, one of its most successful longstanding games, MapleStory, is a 2D sidescroller. I reviewed MapleStory for the lil' Online World Atlas that I do over there, and I found the Asian-influenced, cutie-sprite oldschool look really charming; as I said, it reminded me of playing strange nonsense Hudson Soft-type games on my Turbo Grafx 16 back in the day.
MapleStory has millions and millions of players worldwide -- I've heard the figures pegged at anywhere from 30 to 60 million users. When you think of how big a deal people like Newsweek and Time think Second Life is, reflect that Second Life has only about 7 million. On top of that, MapleStory has been thriving for almost five years now, and growing every year -- after about five years, the majority of MMOs have maxed out their lifecycles.
When I asked Kim about why MapleStory's been so successful in a relatively tricky market, his answers are pretty much what you might guess -- fresh content constantly, listening to what the users want, being unique graphically, and having a strong community. After all, the difference between MMO and just plain old O, as in, uh... you're the O-nly one playing (isn't that what it stands for?) is other people, right? So what does your MMO community mean to you, and how does it affect the experience of gameplay?
The community element is one in particular that a lot of players in this space are talking about quite a lot lately. There's this huge gold rush going on for MMOs and virtual worlds; just about everyone has realized they can make a ton of money by aiming a community-oriented product at the "sweet spot" aged about 14-17. Especially if they can get those kids to bring their friends. Saying that peer pressure drives site loyalty is a bit of a cynical way of looking at it, but if you have a MySpace or Facebook account, why'd you get one? Because you had some friends who were using it. And once you're sick of it, why do you keep logging in? To see what your friends are up to, of course.
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