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Russian-Targeted MMORPG Faces Unique Obstacles

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the with-love dept.

PC Games (Games) 34

Thanks to the Moscow Times for their article discussing the rise of the Russian-based PC MMO title Sphere, which "is the first MMORPG developed in Russia and catering specifically to Russian players." According to a spokesperson, there are markedly different limitations to Western titles: "From the beginning, we faced a big technical problem -- how to make a game that would work well over our absolutely abominable phone lines." In addition, some of the economic problems are also intriguing: "Since few Russians have credit cards, 1C developed another scheme for online payment... [using] Yandex-Dengi, a ruble-based payment service similar to the dollar-based service PayPal. Players interested in a low-tech alternative can also re-subscribe by buying a fresh Sphere CD for about $6 every month." Overall, the MMO's subscription "costs about half as much as EverQuest's, opening the door to cash-strapped Russian gamers", and it's attracted over 15,000 players in the first 3 months.

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First soviet russia post (and fp) (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8337552)

So apparently...

In Soviet Russia, games target you!!

Re:First soviet russia post (and fp) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8337973)

In soviet russia, the world plugs into you!
In soviet russia, you target the game!
In soviet russia, the phones break you!

In Soviet Russia... (-1, Redundant)

wan-fu (746576) | more than 10 years ago | (#8337554)

you play video games?

Someone has to say it. (-1, Redundant)

Den_onda_kotten (616799) | more than 10 years ago | (#8337583)

In Soviet russia, MMORPS play you!

This post will be modded down in 5...4...3...

It really doesn't look all that great. (2, Insightful)

c.emmertfoster (577356) | more than 10 years ago | (#8337717)

I beta tested a few Korean made MMORPGs and often wondered why they bother to try to compete with giant conglomerate-made games like EverQuest and Asheron's Call. Setting up a stable server infrastructure is a (pardon) massive undertaking. Not to discourage independant developers, but this really looks like a pretty generic game.

Re:It really doesn't look all that great. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8337811)

Um... but none of the "giant conglomerate-made games" are available in Russian? Some of these "giants" wouldn't even know where to begin translating, selling and marketing to a completely new market like Russia. Their time and effort is better spent on keeping their existing user base happy.

An English language MMORPG is going to sell as well in Russia as a Russian MMORPG will in America - you'd have about six customers, one of whom would never play it, one would be Russian language students, two would be Russians who were now living in the US, and the remaining two would constantly complain about not being able to read Russian.

Okay, so you've played a Korean-made MMORPG, but the average American gamer on the street probably hasn't. Heck, 99% of American MMORPG gamers haven't even *heard* of the most popular MMORPG in the world - Lineage [] (which has over 2 million active players).

Re:It really doesn't look all that great. (5, Insightful)

Errabes (711809) | more than 10 years ago | (#8337982)

"An English language MMORPG is going to sell as well in Russia as a Russian MMORPG will in America"

Not sure about it.
In Europe, as we haven't a lot of choice of localized MMORPG, most of the friends I have are playing US MMORPGs on US servers. One goal is to learn the language at the same time.

But maybe me and my friends aren't representative (and I'm playing Japanese beta of Lineage 2 too, so...)

Re:It really doesn't look all that great. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8341120)

>An English language MMORPG is going to sell as well in Russia as a Russian MMORPG will in America
I'll bet you dollars against rubels there are more english speaking russians then americans speaking russian.

Re:It really doesn't look all that great. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8341808)

>>An English language MMORPG is going to sell as well in Russia as a Russian MMORPG will in America
>I'll bet you dollars against rubels there are more english speaking russians then americans speaking russian.

And you'd win. Americans often jokingly claim everyone speaks english, but they're actually right, it's the new lingua franca. Here in Leopolis every single educated person below 30 years (the type that might want to plat a MMORPG) either allready speaks or is actively learning, and I know from colleagus it's the same in Russia.

American's can learn (3, Interesting)

Mork29 (682855) | more than 10 years ago | (#8337769)

I'm surprised we haven't seen cheaper MMO games popping up. I'd say the easiest way to do it would simply be to tone down everything except story and such a notch. Notch down the graphics and the engine just a little bit, and you'll save HUGE amounts of money. From development, to distribution, to server bandwidth, you could save money. I think players who were on a tight budget, with a slow computer would flock to a game like this as long as it still had good gaming content, just minus the eye candy.

Re:American's can learn (1)

ottawanker (597020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8337776)

You know, I could see something like this catching on in the US, etc.. People with lower incomes or who don't have fast Internet, or just cheap-ass people like me, etc..

But, I'm so cheap I just play free MUDs and door games...

Re:American's can learn (2, Informative)

Errabes (711809) | more than 10 years ago | (#8337885)

"Notch down the graphics and the engine just a little bit, and you'll save HUGE amounts of money."

It still looks quite good, as seen on (the eng screenshot section don't work)

I wonder how the gameplay is.

Re:American's can learn (2, Informative)

Errabes (711809) | more than 10 years ago | (#8337932)

Sorry guys, I didn't do a fine link.
So for those that don't wanna follow the MS recommendations about links usage (type url by hand), or are too lazy to copy/paste, here are the screenshots []

Re:American's can learn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8339256)

The things with the most impact in the monthly fee are customer service, server maintenance, and bandwidth (which has nothing to do with graphics; these come in the game client). Development is expensive, but if the game is a success it becomes way less relevant than the live expenses.

It is true that games which are less demanding hardware wise may potentially reach a wider audience, but currently the bulk of PW audience is hardcore gamers, the same that strive to own the latest hardware. Those who are just concerned with gameplay, and can look past the fancy graphics, and those who are on a tight budget, are well served with MUDs.

Cutting on the graphics means the game will receive less attention from press and from the bulk of the market, who just love the eye candy. You save a bit in the short term (again, only in development; distribution and bandwidth are not concerned with graphics), only to damage your chances for success and to lose a lot in the long run. No good.

The prices of PWs are going up, not down, and that trend is not likely to change. Consensus in the biz is that indeed PWs are too cheap, so much that only games that reach vast user bases in the first year or so (and then manage to keep them) can survive.

Re:American's can learn (0)

Acidic_Diarrhea (641390) | more than 10 years ago | (#8339414)

"Notch down the graphics and the engine just a little bit, and you'll save HUGE amounts of money."
No you won't. The graphics are handled client side. That spider that you attack - all the textures and whatnot for it are all coming from the data on your machine. And doesn't that seem to make sense? Why would a game developer transmit that data?

In fact, the actual game development can be made back fairly quickly. For example, take your average game that is not an MMO experience - it retails for $US 50, right? Well - companies are able to make a profit on these games and they don't have the benefit of a subscription model to offset development costs. Your average MMO game does tend to drop in price more quickly than a non-MMO game BUT the fact is that a lot of the development costs can be taken care of by the initial offering of the game to the consumer. By making a game less cutting edge and spending less time and money on the graphics technology, you'll attract fewer gamers. With fewer games subscribed to your service, the actual per user costs of service and server maintenance go up because you lose bulk discounts and whatnot.

Finally, people with a slow computer probably aren't the target demographic for a MMO game. A game where there is a monthly subscription fee is going to appeal to people who really enjoy games. People who really enjoy games typically spend a lot of money on having good rigs and therefore your statement that there are customers waiting to flock, I believe, is not correct.

Re:American's can learn (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8340515)

I hate conservatives. If you are a conservative, fuck off and die.

Apparently not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360718)

Americans, not American's.

The superscript sign ( ' ) used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, or the plurals of numbers, letters, and abbreviations.

English website. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8337773)

Their English website is here [] .

The link to the English site on their Russian web page (as linked in the Slashdot article) - is broken.

Re:English website. (2, Funny)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 10 years ago | (#8345064)

Handy link, thanks. I have trouble even playing something as bandwidth-friendly as BZFlag [] on my slow, rural home connection. A "light" MMRPGOOGOOGAAGAA (whatever) would be excellent.

Unfortunately, the "Buy" links are in Russian, and I don't know "????????? ??????" from "?????????????????". My knowledge of Russian is limited to the similarity between "Toys [R] Us" and "Tet[r]is" (reverse characters in []).

Nice idea. (4, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 10 years ago | (#8338150)

Biggest problem for me with current mmo games is that I don't have a credit card. Had a case of bad debt and although it is now paid off and I make a decent income I am reluctant to make a debt again no matter how small. Cash and debet only please.

There are other reasons as well. As a dutch person I am used to free debet cards. Why should I pay a bank to hold my money? So no CC for me and for plently of others. How many kids can use their parents credit card outside the US?

Selling the game instead through stores would solve all that. Mobile phones really took off with prepaid cards. There is now even a very simple infrastructure in place for that. You go the cash register and say the phone brand you want and how many minutes. The receit has a special code printed on it that you can use to upgrade your phone. Flawless.

So why not the same for games? It would also solve that pesky problem of charge backs.

Oh well I wish them good luck.

Implemented before. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8338282)

NexonAsia (which is closed, I'm not sure whether Nexon uses it as well) games also used such cards, with codes on scratch-off thingies which you imput into a website. Of cause, then main problem then is to supply all these cards to distributors, which is just about as hard as normal game distribution, and it's even worse if you're trying to market it globally.. I think many other Asian-based MMOGs also uses such formulas..

As a side note, Gunbound [] has a different formula for cash-earning: allowing people to buy certain equipments using real money. (It doesn't apply to all equipments though [the high end ones can only be gotten via actual playing]) There are other MMOs which does this, but I'm not going to search for them right now..

Yeah that is what is new with prepaid (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 10 years ago | (#8339203)

We had those scratch cards first. They were sold in places like supermarkets. But "Albert Heyn" a rather big supermarket chain now does it differently. All its cash registers are hooked up to a system so that the number is now printed on your receipt. The ultimate last minute ordering system. 0 second delivery and 0 stock.

Should be trivial to add support to the system ALREADY in place at that supermarket for game subscriptions. Other stuff could benefit as well.

As for going it globally, no worries. That supermarket chain is pretty big, you probably shop at one owned by them. Stuff like this is also hardly new. Think about lottery sales. Public Transport tickets (maybe unique to holland) and other stuff that essentially involves you buying a piece of paper to indicate you bought something else from a third party.

Re:Nice idea. (1)

one4nine4two (683126) | more than 10 years ago | (#8338293)

Why don't you just use the debit card as a credit card? I've never had an issue entering my debit card number into credit card forms to buy things online. That's why they have the Visa, Mastercard, Amex, etc. logos on them. You can use them just like one.

And my bank (Wells Fargo) doesn't charge me to use my debit card, and I haven't heard of any bank doing so either. They sure do fuck me with non-Wells Fargo ATM fees though. Thank deity POS withdrawals are free. I need a new banker.

Prepaid game cards already exist for certain MMORPGs. I don't think machines are a cost-effective method in this case.

Re:Nice idea. (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 10 years ago | (#8340707)

Its not that simple... My fiance is american, and I live in another country, so I tend to see differences between the countries hand on... And...(I honestly dont know if you're american, I am using this as the exemple I know), it is something americans seem to be used to, debit cards as credit cards. Here however, it is a rather uncommon thing (though I do beleive it is possible), and thus using debit card transfer is completly different (though as common) to using credit cards. Different numbers, different company, different pricing, different machines (sometimes), different method, different advantages and drawbacks, but one of those drawbacks is I cannot use my debit card on-line ^^; So its not that simple.

Re:Nice idea. (2, Informative)

shepuk (588339) | more than 10 years ago | (#8339121)

UK players can already use pay-as-you-go top-up cards [] to pay for many popular MMORPGs, via an account at paybycash [] . These cards can be credited at any outlet that offers mobile phone swipes.

In Sovite Russia... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8338647)

MMORPG plays you!

Ahh...never mind. Too bad it isn't a game about actually being Russian. Waiting for soup and bread in long lines, freezing your arse off in Siberian winters, drinking vodka...

In Soviet Russia.. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8338666)

MMORPG's play YOU!

Exactly what Russian's need (1)

mwheeler01 (625017) | more than 10 years ago | (#8338684)

An over glorified chatroom with abysmal graphics and mired in lag. Yep sounds about right for Russia. Seriously though, I didn't look very hard but I couldn't find any screen shots, for $6 a month and over these awful phone lines can it really be any good?

Re:Exactly what Russian's need (2, Insightful)

curtisk (191737) | more than 10 years ago | (#8339859)

screenshots here [] , for six bucks a month not too bad

Re:Exactly what Russian's need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8343780)

If you were to read the article, you'd find out that it's specifically-written to work over low-speed phone lines.

new markets and 15k (3, Insightful)

ghostlibrary (450718) | more than 10 years ago | (#8339077)

One advantage of Russian being a "new" market (for MMORPGs, at least) is that 15,000 subscribers in 3 months can seem like a success. In the US, MMs are closing down because they only have 150k in a year.

Even a straight PC game that sells under 100k is seen as a 'failure'. In some ways this is perception; by being the first, they can survive with subscriber numbers that a bigger corporation would see as tiny.

Go small startups!

use national currency (0)

Cynikal (513328) | more than 10 years ago | (#8340824)

play online now, only 29.95 oz/mo

Biggest problem is making the game depressing enou (0, Flamebait)

ageoffri (723674) | more than 10 years ago | (#8340974)

After taking some High School Russian and having a brand new immigrant teacher for one year, if the game isn't depressing, then they won't like it. The teacher had stood in a line just because it had been so long since she had stood in a long line! Then look up some of the folk songs, back breaking work is what they sing about.

Red Dawn? (4, Funny)

Eklypz (731361) | more than 10 years ago | (#8341517)

Meanwhile, the Defenders of Light call on players to battle the forces of darkness, which include a few elements from a more familiar world. In particular, the Defenders hope to defeat the United States of America -- "a beachhead," they say, "for the invasion of the Devil."
I say get a bunch of American clans over there and kick some commie butt!
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