Nexon free to play games might be big news in Asia, with smash hits like Maplestory, but their free to play offerings like Combat Arms and Vindictus have had a harder time gaining traction in the west. The company’s Chief Financial Officer Owen Mahoney argues that free to play attitudes in the west have held back the model from attaining the dominance it has in Asia.
“Some of the western companies, especially in the casual space, made the mistake of thinking that free-to-play was an ersatz pay-to-play. If you play a game that won’t let you continue unless you pay, it’s not free. We learned the lesson very early on and we stopped making that mistake right away.”
Nexon have been proactively investing in western companies making more core focused free to play games over the last 12 months, such as Rumble Games, Brian Reyneolds’ SecretNewCo and former EA and Zynga COO John Schappert’s Shiver Entertainment.
For Nexon, it’s all about moving away from the intrusive practices and stigma established by many Facebook and mobile free to play and towards high quality experiences that players want to spend money on, like Valve’s Dota 2. Mahoney argues that constantly badgering the player for money is ultimately counterproductive.
“If a waiter in a restaurant keeps asking you if you’d like to order more food every two minutes, the restaurant might make some extra cash that night, but you’d likely never come back.”
Although 90% of Nexon’s playerbase never paid a dollar into the company’s $1.2 billion dollars of revenue, players in that top 10% contributed on average $22 a piece. That doesn’t mean the 90% of players are without value, however.
“They are all playing in a synchronous, immersive world. You have thousands of people playing at the same time. If people are not there or they are not engaged, then they are not going to keep coming back. So we have to focus on the 90 percent of people, even though they are not spending money.”