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Withdrawal from Europe a missed opportunity, says former NCsoft staffer

Adam Martin speculates that Korean bosses will never hand over independence to other regions again

Adam Martin, former lead programmer at NCsoft, has spoken out about the recent job cuts in Europe and of the formation of NCsoft West, describing it as the completion of a power grab within the company, which started with job cuts last summer.

"All this waffle about becoming a unified organisation under NC West, and the reporting by bloggers and journalists that this was consolidating the subsidiaries and offices (they were already consolidated, you know) ... what a load of crap," he commented on his blog.

"NC West was simply a handing over of the reins of power from the OSI Mafia (ex-Origin people such as: Robert Garriott, Richard Garriott, Peter Jarvis, Starr Long, etc) to the Arena.net directors," he claimed.

Earlier this week, NCsoft confirmed that a number of positions in the UK are to be moved to North America - with some 55 staff members axed.

In his post about the job cuts and subsequent media attention, Martin criticised his former company for the approach it took.

"If you're reforming a company, do it lightning fast," he said. "If you've been at that company, playing the politics for five years, you ought to have a battle plan in mind well in advance of being 'officially' given the reins."

Martin suggested that the failure to establish NCsoft Europe was a "missed opportunity", saying that it could have filled a vital gap in the region's market.

"NCsoft had the opportunity to create a giant of the MMO publishing world in Europe; Europe is screaming out for it and just needs a banner to rally behind - and a visionary exec team to say, 'we're going to turn Europe into an online gaming powerhouse'."

He added "Europe is a bigger market than the USA (by some 30 per cent or more). Europe has no multi-title successful MMO developer or publisher. The UK alone has a lesser but comparable level of mainstream game developers and output of titles to the US."

"The development industry is here, less so the publishing industry - but there's a gaping hole in the MMO sphere. For someone bold enough to step into that hole, you could own Europe's online gaming industry for the next decade."

Martin concluded his post with a speculation as to why NCsoft had backed out of Europe in terms of development, despite the opportunity it presented.

"At the end of the day, I eventually realised that NCsoft won't do it for one simple reason: Korea still probably doesn't quite understand how they managed to go so badly wrong with the Garriott brothers as the founders and owners of NCsoft North America, and wouldn't dare risk another, independent, self-managing, ambitious subsidiary anywhere in the world."

He added "The Asian subsidiaries are all kept on a very short leash and get practically no independence. The whole western conceptualisation of subsidiaries is already anathema to the Koreans."

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James Lee