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NCsoft earnings report shows healthy growth

Aion, Lineage, Lineage 2, MMO Industry, Guild Wars 2, Blade & Soul, Miscellaneous

NCsoft earnings report shows healthy growth
NCsoft just released its fourth quarter 2012 earnings report, and things are looking pretty good across the board for the multi-MMO company. NCsoft's earnings are up both quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year due to the releases of Blade & Soul and Guild Wars 2, not to mention "record-breaking annual revenues" from Lineage.

Guild Wars 2 accounted for 45% of the company's sales in Q4, followed by Lineage (24%) and Blade & Soul (10%). ArenaNet's newest game increased the North American market from 16% in Q3 to 25% in Q4.

It's not completely sunshine and roses, however. Lineage II and Aion both experienced declines during the period. NCsoft's net income was in the red for the quarter and its stock has slid since September, losing half of its value in the process.

[Thanks to Paul for the tip!]

Massively Interview: Dr. Lawrence Sanders on MMO loyalty

Sci-Fi, Aion, EVE Online, Lineage, Lineage 2, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Interviews (Massively's), World of Tanks, TERA, Miscellaneous, PlanetSide 2, Age of Wushu

Beyond amazing character design, compelling narratives, and the presence of dragons, there is one thing that all MMOs depend upon for success: player loyalty. Without returning subscribers, a loving community, or folks dropping a few dimes in the cash shop now and again, MMOs simply wouldn't be a feasible way for a games studio to do business. Smart development teams have player retention departments tasked specifically with tracking and analyzing the rise and fall of player allegiances and finding ways to leverage loyalty is becoming an increasingly important aspect of the creation process.

Even the non-gaming world is getting in on the fray. Back in November, researchers at the University at Buffalo School of Management published a study tracing the roots of player loyalties in a variety of MMO environments. The study outlined the mentalities of MMO gamers and the things that successfully encouraged them to keep coming back for more looting, more grinding, and more /hugging. Most importantly, the study declared that an MMO that increases loyalty by just 5% can increase profits by 25-95%.

We sat down with Dr. Lawrence Sanders, co-author of the study, to dive a little deeper into the researchers' methods, results, and plans for future MMO investigation.

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NCsoft weathers $6M loss in Q2

Aion, Lineage, Lineage 2, MMO Industry, Guild Wars 2, Blade & Soul, Miscellaneous

NCsoft weathers $6M loss for the quarter
NCsoft may have more banking on Guild Wars 2 than once thought. The mega-publisher announced that its second quarter earnings were lower than expected; it posted a $6 million loss for the period.

Revenues were down 12% from last year to $130 million, of which a vast majority came from NCsoft's online titles. The company stated that it dipped into the red due to rising labor costs, an increased marketing budget for Blade & Soul's Korean launch, and the acquisition of Ntreev. Aion was also blamed for the company's financial woes, as revenues in that title sharply decreased due to fewer microtransaction sales.

Both Lineage titles composed a great share of the company's revenues, with the first game producing 45% of sales and the sequel 13%.

NCsoft said that it is banking on Guild Wars 2 to produce a profitable third quarter, however.

The Game Archaeologist seals up 2011

A Tale in the Desert, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest, Lineage, Meridian 59, PlanetSide, Shadowbane, Everquest Online Adventures, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

Guild Wars 2
You know what I love about the end of each year? The lists. Man, but I'm a sucker for lists, especially when they come in "best of" varieties. In the lull between Christmas and New Year's, there typically isn't a lot happening in the world of entertainment, so it's a good time to look back before we head forward.

And so it is for The Game Archaeologist. 2011 marks the second year I've been doing this column, and it's been one of my personal favorite series to write. Every week I'm learning more and more about the history of the MMO genre, and I'm encouraged to see just how much passion and interest there are for the titles that started it all and got us to where we are today.

So before we head into 2012, let's take one last glimpse back at the road we've traveled. If you've missed out on any of these columns or want to revisit your favorite classic MMO, I've compiled a huge list of everything I talked about this year, from histories to interviews to player stories. There's also a special request for you (yes, you) at the end of this column, so do me a favor and hit that jump!

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Former Lineage II artist returns to NCsoft for new MMO project

Fantasy, Aion, Lineage, Lineage 2, MMO Industry

Lineage II

NCsoft's prodigal son has returned, and with him the hopes and dreams of the future of gaming. Well that might be a smidge melodramatic, but fans of the company's games certainly have a good reason to celebrate today as former Lineage II artist Juno Jeong has come back to the fold.

Jeong signed back on with NCsoft as of yesterday to be the art director of an unknown MMO project. This is a marked step up from his previous role in the company as a member of the character production team, and those who know Jeong's art style are already expressing excitement with his current role. Following his stint on Lineage II, Jeong worked for several other game companies including Gravity, NHN, and Npluto.

While speculation is swirling over the exact nature of the project to which he's been assigned, the most common assumptions are either that he's working on another Lineage or Aion title.

North Korea employing MMO hackers to fund government

Lineage, Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, News Items

What's a dictator to do when his third-world economy is wheezing along on its last legs? Hack some video games, of course! According to a report in the New York Times, North Korea's Kim Jong-il unleashed an army of young computer crackers on popular South Korean online gaming portals to find ways to make quick cash.

South Korean authorities claim that a squad of approximately 30 hackers operated from a base in China and were given the mission of breaching online gaming servers (including those of the immensely popular Lineage) to set up bot factories and automated farming collectives. The digital booty was then sold to gamers for a reported $6 million over two years.

Chung Kil-hwan, a senior officer at South Korea's International Crime Investigation Unit, says that the hacker group "reports to a shadowy Communist Party agency called Office 39, which gathers foreign hard currency for Mr. Kim through drug trafficking, counterfeiting, arms sales, and other illicit activities."

The Game Archaeologist traces his Lineage: The highlights

Fantasy, Lineage, The Game Archaeologist

If we judged MMOs by their numbers alone -- and I'm not suggesting we do so -- then Lineage would be the crowing rooster strutting about the hen house. It's also been one of those games that I've always intellectually acknowledged was a huge hit for some reason, but I never gave it much attention. I think it's because, contrary to many of the "big name" games we cover here, Lineage was and always will be an Asian phenomenon. That doesn't mean it should be shunned, of course, but just that it may be difficult to understand when you're on the outside of it.

So let's back up the memory truck to September 1998, when a then-fledgling NCsoft rolled out a Diablo-esque isometric MMO and struck virtual gold in South Korea. At the time, gaming rooms were becoming a huge thing in the country; a recession had hit (giving people a lot of time with nothing to do), and the government was rapidly expanding the broadband network. In the face of this perfect storm, titles like StarCraft and Lineage became overnight household fixtures -- and the country hasn't looked back.

Even if you haven't played Lineage and you don't know anyone who does, trust me: There are a lot of people playing this 13-year-old title, to the tune of millions and millions. As former Senior Producer Chris Mahnken said, "Lineage keeps going because it's just plain fun."

This month we'll be looking back at the incredible legacy that Lineage has given the industry, starting with an overview of the highlights of these past 13 years. Hit the jump and mind the gap!

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The MMO Report: Lineage shutdown, Lion's Arch, and Sith Inquisitor trailer

Video, Lineage, News Items, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Ether Saga Online, The MMO Report, Miscellaneous

Today's MMO Report, sadly, suffers from a distinct lack of Casey Schreiner. But all is well, as G4's Morgan Webb has stepped up to the plate to cover for Casey as he celebrates his 30th birthday.

The first order of business is the announcement that NCSoft will be shutting down the North American Lineage servers on June 29th. All inactive accounts for the 13-year-old game have been reactivated, and the game will be free-to-play until the servers go dark.

Secondly, we move on to the much-anticipated Guild Wars 2 and the confirmation that Lion's Arch, a social hub featured in the first game, would be making its return in Guild Wars 2. Be sure to check out our coverage of the unveiling of the fly-through video and some analytical commentary from our own Rubi Bayer.

Next up is some screen-time for Minecraft. While the game is not strictly an MMO, there's no doubt that the indie title has gained immense popularity in the gaming community. Morgan reports that Minecraft creator Notch is contemplating holding a Las Vegas launch party... err, convention tentatively dated for November 11th.

Star Wars: The Old Republic's Sith Inquisitor made its trailer debut earlier this week. Being described by Morgan as "the one player character you really don't want to meet in a dark alley," the class incorporates elements of both spellcasters and stealth classes into one mean, Force-fueled combination.

Lastly, we have a fly-through video of the starting zones of Perfect World Entertainment's Ether Saga Odyssey. The free-to-play MMO launched late last month.

For the full Casey-and-mailbag-deprived video, scuttle on past the cut.

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NCsoft increases profits, maintains revenues

Aion, Lineage, Lineage 2, MMO Industry, Miscellaneous

It's a banner year over at the NCsoft household, as the company is showing a strong rise in net profits for the first quarter this year. Even though NCsoft's revenues have held relatively steady during Q1 2011, profits are up by 30% for a total of $37.5 million due to recent promotions in Lineage and Aion.

The vast majority of NCsoft's money comes from Korea, with Chinese and Western markets trailing behind. According to Gamesindustry.biz, Aion is making the most bank for the company (accounting for 44% of revenues), followed by Lineage (28%) and Lineage 2 (22%).

NCsoft's Sara Rogers sees nothing but good news in these numbers: "NCsoft consistently delivers strong figures in a way that most other games publishers can only dream of. These results prove that we have the MMO brands that people want to play and that we're able to grow and maintain customer loyalty, which is crucial in successful MMO publishing. This year, Gamescom will be very significant for us. We'll have a major presence and maybe even steal a headline or two."

NCsoft shutting down Lineage in North America

Fantasy, Lineage, Events (Real-World), News Items

Before Aion, before Guild Wars, before anything else for NCsoft, there was Lineage. Not the sequel (which actually takes place significantly before the first title) but the original game, released not too long after Ultima Online came on to the scene. While the game is old, it's long maintained a viable community within North America... but apparently not quite viable enough. Today, NCsoft announced that as of June 29th, the game's servers will be shutting down for good in North America.

Players who had registered previously have had their accounts reactivated in good standing, and all recurring billing has been cancelled from this date onward. The community team for the game is also promising some live events to help memorialize the game and let it go out with a bang rather than a whimper. We can also expect to see a few new live server rule pushes. Still, it's a sad day for Lineage fans, who are well advised to look at the official announcement and the refund policy to see how the plans for the remaining time will affect them.

NCsoft's Lineage enjoys record year, Aion growth boosts total revenue

Fantasy, Aion, Lineage, Lineage 2, Business Models, Economy, MMO Industry, News Items

It's been an up and down year for NCsoft, literally. GamesIndustry.biz writes that the Korean MMO titan has reported increases in both its sales and operating profits but a drop in net income in the recently concluded fiscal 2010 period. Surprisingly, the company's total revenue was up two percent due to unprecedented sales of the 12-year-old Lineage MMORPG.

Much to the chagrin of fail-trolls across the internet, NCsoft has also publicized the fact that Aion continues to be a financial success after "recording consecutive growth for the last three years." Taken together, NCsoft's big three (Lineage, Lineage 2, and Aion) have now accounted for $2.7 billion in lifetime sales.

NCsoft's largest success came courtesy of the booming Korean market (which represented a $370 million cut of its $576 million total revenue). Next up was the Japanese market at $70 million, followed by North America at $43.4 million and Europe at $30.1 million.

Take a two-week MMOcation: Lineage reactivates lapsed accounts for new update

Lineage, Promotions, Family

It may be an oldie, but Lineage shows no sign of slowing down in its middle age. In fact, NCsoft is on the verge of releasing a mega-update and is throwing open the doors to all previous Lineage players from the past decade-plus to give it a whirl.

On Wednesday, November 10th, the new update will be released in conjunction with a two-week period of reactivated accounts. From the 10th through the 24th, all previous Lineage players will find their accounts dusted off and unlocked for their gaming pleasure. Getting back into the swing of things is fairly simple, too: All one needs to do is just log in.

The succinctly named Tikal + Antharas update features a new dungeon (Tikal) as well as the first-ever raid dungeon for the game (Antharas). The patch notes show that there is plenty of content for everyone of all walks of play, as the update offers new pets, a revamped dungeon, plenty of additional items, and resting XP for higher levels.

You can read the full announcement as well as an account reactivation FAQ over at the Lineage website.

Lineage readies Season 3, Episode 1 update

Fantasy, Lineage, Expansions, Patches, News Items

Massively is traveling back in time this week with regard to NCsoft titles, first with news about updates to Lineage II and now with word on an exciting bit of new content for the original Lineage. Yes, you heard right -- the first-gen MMORPG (originally released in 1998) is still alive, kicking, and updating.

July 29th will bring players the opportunity to experience Episode 1 of Season 3 on NCsoft's Play Test Servers. Subtitled Crack of Time and featuring new classes, a dungeon, and an expanded storyline, the update has yet to receive an official live release window.

New classes include the dragon knight (a damage-dealer featuring the ability to shape-shift into beast forms) and the illusionist (a PvP-centric class with substantial debuff magic and area-of-effect attacks). The update also brings revamped starting areas, Thebes Dungeon (which features a random entrance-spawn and a challenging completion timer), and tweaks specifically designed to cater to North American audiences. These changes include double XP, higher item drop-rates, and higher boss-spawn rates.

Lineage I patch to go live tomorrow

Fantasy, Lineage, Patches

Lineage I players who think they've done everything there is to do in the game, hold that thought, because Episode U goes live tomorrow and you won't be bored for a very long time.

The patch notes encompass a very long list of new content as well as updates to old content. There are new zones, bosses, and quests, as well as some new mini-games such as pet racing. The content isn't limited to gameplay, however. Take a look at the new mail system, the many new furniture items, and the new alliance system as well.

The patch has been in testing, and there are still some bugs to be worked out. The patch announcement states "We are still committed to fixing more bugs, but we do not wish to delay the patch any longer," and notes that none of the current bugs are game-breaking.

Take a look at the full patch notes here, and enjoy Episode U!

NCsoft shows record profits in latest quarterly report

Fantasy, Aion, Lineage, Lineage 2, News Items

NCsoft has released information on the latest fiscal quarter, and the numbers presumably made some happy faces at NCsoft according to a report at Gamasutra.

Just a few short months after the September launch of Aion for North America and Europe, NCsoft reports record profits in its fiscal fourth quarter. Sales were up 99% year-on-year, thanks in large part to the hugely hyped Aion, which sold over 300,000 copies through pre-order alone.

While Aion is responsible for 48% of the sales numbers, the Lineage IP held its own easily, with Lineage accounting for 27% of sales and Lineage 2 holding 20%. Lineage has been around and performing steadily since 1998, but the recently revitalized franchise was a big factor in NCsoft's success over the past year.

The full report can be viewed here.

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