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Nexon USA's Daniel Kim

The online games company CEO updates us on continued business growth and what's to come

Free-to-play is a sector of the online business that's grown significantly in the past five years, and with MapleStory present through that whole time, Nexon can certainly be attributed some of the responsibility.

But the quality bar for what constitutes a free-to-play game is rising - here Nexon USA CEO Daniel Kim reflects on another year of growth, and explains how the company is helping to change the perception of free online products. So how are things going - what's the business performance been like recently?
Daniel Kim

It's fantastic, we're really happy. We've made announcements over the last few months, whenever NPD numbers that come out for the games industry that are really grim, we've had double digit growth year-over-year - every year - and the last one was no exception.

We're very happy with the performance. In the third quarter of calendar 2009 we had 32 per cent growth over the previous one, and overall the whole year was about 12 per cent. That third quarter, though - it was at the same time the industry posted a 16 per cent loss. Although if we break that down a bit, and take away Nintendo platforms and the music game genre, core games were pretty stable. But Nexon has had a couple of properties in particular that have thrived in the Western markets - have they seen continued growth?
Daniel Kim

MapleStory is our workhorse around the world. It's five years in service - we'll be celebrating its fifth anniversary in May - but year-over-year... last summer we broke another concurrent user number record with 70,000, and it's continuing to grow.

Meanwhile Combat Arms has been phenomenal - we kind of hit a hockey stick both in terms of revenue and users, and we're very excited about that growth. The performance in Europe is also excellent as well - that's a game for which we didn't even go into commercialisation in Korea, but in North America and Europe it's been kicking a lot of butt. And what do you attribute that success to? Is it marketing, or word of mouth?
Daniel Kim

I think it's about access - MapleStory is a very accessible game, and one of the mantras for us at Nexon is "easy to learn, hard to master" - it definitely follows that in terms of the game design philosophy. It has very simple controls and an inviting UI that's not very intimidating - it's very familiar - but it has depth and breadth that will match any RPG out there.

A lot of our users have never actually played an RPG - they're first-time gamers, and usually they're in by word of mouth. Maybe a friend of theirs will come over, install it for them, show them how to play, lend them their character, train them so they can level up and play together...

We did a survey last year and 70 per cent of our users came in through word of mouth. That's the best kind of endorsement.
Daniel Kim

Absolutely - we've spent millions of dollars on marketing through traditional means, both online and on TV, but in the end it's ultimately our users that are the best advocates of our games - and that's been the same for Combat Arms as well. We haven't done that much marketing for Combat Arms, it's been all word of mouth.

We hit 3 million registered users for that, and we've barely had that kind of a pick-up... the game's been in service just over a year, so we're very happy with that.

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