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NCsoft West's Véronique Lallier

One year on from its formation, NCsoft West's managing director discusses the fresh start and its impact on business

One year ago today, NCsoft announced the formation of NCsoft West - a subsidiary that would combine its existing Western subsidiaries into one central company based in Seattle. The unification of these divisions, it was hoped, would result in a more efficient and effective presence in the West, although some European jobs were lost as the company downsized, including development jobs as its Brighton studio was shuttered.

Today business is going well for NCsoft following the successful launch of Aion across Korea resulting in buoyant financials for the year to date, and the showing of the company's Guild Wars 2 at this year's Gamescom.

As a 'culturalised' Aion completes beta testing and is prepared for release across Europe and the US later this year, we talk to NCsoft's managing director of publishing for Europe Véronique Lallier about the division's progress one year on, its future plans and whether the company has ambitions to create games especially for the West.

GamesIndustry.biz So, first off, how is the fresh start working out for NCsoft West?
Véronique Lallier

We decided upon the formation of NCsoft West in September of last year. Our HQ is based in Seattle and basically NC West is an umbrella and NCsoft is helping us to release and put into the market, in the best manner, our games in the West. We have a few developers based in Korea and we thought it was very important to get this setting to make sure we had a consistent messaging and presence across all territories.

GamesIndustry.biz How has the business progressed over the last 12 months, since you formed NCsoft West?
Véronique Lallier

It's been very positive. We unveiled a few financial results recently that were very, very positive. The launch of Aion is definitely helping. We had a very successful launch in South Korea and it's looking very promising in the West. We are launching Aion on September 25 in Europe and so far we have more than 300,000 pre-orders, so it really looks very promising.

GamesIndustry.biz So how have things actually changed since you combined NCsoft Europe and NCsoft Interactive to form NCsoft West?
Véronique Lallier

NCsoft West is providing us with a Western hub, so we find ourselves more efficient in putting our games into the market basically. That is the main change. However, we have always worked close to our American colleagues, even before we had created NCsoft West, so it didn't bring a lot of changes. I've been working for NCsoft for five years since the beginning and haven't found a lot of changes, except for the fact we are more efficient. The communications flow works better and so on.

GamesIndustry.biz And do you think it will help NCsoft become more powerful in the West? Presumably that was part of the strategy behind its formation?
Véronique Lallier

Basically, yes. The aim and our main goal with this formation is to be stronger in the West, that's why we decided to create this umbrella. So, hopefully yes I would say! Things look promising, the future looks amazing with Aion coming and all the amazing results we have so far so, fingers crossed this will continue.

GamesIndustry.biz How has the transition gone on the development side? Obviously, you lost staff in the UK to studios in the US...
Véronique Lallier

Yes, we had a few staff relocated. Mainly part of publishing, which is really close to the development team. We’ve moved some community team members from Brighton to Seattle. We had all the localisation and QA team move over there as well. At the moment, it's hard to see any difference because the team is flying and travelling a lot. Two weeks ago, we were all in Germany for Gamescom and we had our entire community team there. It hasn’t changed a lot. The team is working in a different time zone now but it's still useful as their working hours correspond with our users; when the community team start the working day is when our users are starting to play our game. They can be closer to them, play at the same time, and be very responsive to their needs.

We still have the same studios we had before in North America - Paragon Studios, Carbine Studios and ArenaNet - and we also have an in-house studio in Seattle, which is the studio responsible for putting on the market our Korean games like Lineage I and II and Aion. In Europe we stopped development on a casual game that we were working on, because we changed our strategy to focus on triple-A MMO games, that has triple-A ambition as well as polish. We decided to step back from the casual gaming market we were starting to investigate because we really believe our knowledge and expertise lies with MMOs. There aren't many companies that have launched as many MMOs as us. We want to focus on that because we believe we do that the best. In the future, we will investigate again with casual gaming but, for now, we want to focus on MMO games like Aion and City of Heroes.

GamesIndustry.biz So what sort of plans does NCsoft West have for the future, now it has been up and running for one year?
Véronique Lallier

We unveiled some actually a couple of weeks ago in Cologne. There was a new trailer for Guild Wars 2, obviously a big part of our future. It's a very exciting future. We had a lot of positive feedback on the trailer. We’ve really amazed all our partners with the direction. We don't have a release date yet. You will hear more about the game next year obviously. Apart from that, we have a very promising game in development in our Korean studio - we revealed this under the codename Blade & Soul, which is not the final title, just a working one. We showed a trailer for this game last year, it is still under development in our Korean studio and is looking very promising too. The graphical quality is even higher than Aion - it's stunning.

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Kath Brice

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