Netmarble pins hopes on Iron Throne

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Netmarble pins hopes on Iron Throne

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Executives of Netmarble, including vice president Lee Seung-won, second from left, hold a press conference Thursday in Seoul to announce the release of Iron Throne, the company’s first MMO strategy game. [NETMARBLE]



Korean gaming giant Netmarble entered the massively-multiplayer online (MMO) strategy market on Thursday by introducing Iron Throne, an attempt to diversify its profit structure, which relies heavily on a handful of role playing games.

“We think Iron Throne will open up a new chapter [for Netmarble],” said Lee Seung-won, vice president in charge of Netmarble’s overseas operations, at an event to show the game to the media on Thursday in Seoul. “We developed the game from the start with the global market in mind and we expect the game will become a global hit.”

Iron Throne is the company’s first MMO strategy game, created by 4Plat, a game-developing subsidiary of Netmarble, over the past three years.

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An image from Iron Throne, Netmarble’s first MMO strategy game. Iron Throne’s global release is slated for some time in May. [NETMARBLE]

“For the MMO strategy genre, the average annual rate of growth over the past three years is 38 percent, making it one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry,” explained Lee.

Set in medieval times, Iron Throne offers full 3D graphics and players can choose heroes with a number of different backgrounds, including Vikings and Japanese warriors.

Lee explained that as a latecomer to the segment, the company needed a way to set Iron Throne apart from its competition.
“Our goal was to create innovative content, something users haven’t seen,” Lee said. “I think diversity in the type of battles that users can engage in is one feature that sets the game apart.”

According to Kang Jae-ho, CEO of 4Plat, players can participate in battles with different dynamics. “Battle royale death match” mode, for instance, allows two players to go head-to-head against each other. “Team death match” mode enables up to 20 players to battle against another team of 20, which can include artificial intelligence players if there aren’t enough humans available. Kang claims the game’s artificial intelligence algorithm is so advanced that it would be nearly impossible for human players to win if the bot setting is 100 percent.

4Plat and Netmarble also adopted an augmented reality feature, another attempt to use the latest technology to enhance the user experience.

Iron Throne comes at an opportune time for Netmarble as its last mega hit, Lineage 2: Revolution, is steadily losing customers globally.

Lineage 2: Revolution is a mobile multiplayer online role-playing game released in late 2016, based on the Lineage series by NCsoft. The game became the main cash cow for Netmarble and made the company the biggest mobile game publisher in Korea in terms of sales. Revenue from the game, however, took a hit in recent months and analysts expect this will be reflected in the company’s financial results for the first quarter of 2018.

Netmarble raked in about 384 billion won ($361.8 million) in sales in Korea from Revolution in the first quarter of 2017, more than half its total quarterly revenue. This figure plummeted to 66.2 billion in the fourth quarter of last year.

“Domestic and international sales from Lineage 2: Revolution are on the decline…and we expect its operating profit for the first quarter will be 12.1 percent lower quarter-to-quarter at 81.5 billion won,” said Oh Dong-hwan, an industry analyst from Samsung Securities.
“The company’s performance for the second quarter will be determined by new releases hitting the market,” Oh added.

Pre-registration for the game started on Thursday and Iron Throne is slated to hit the global market — 251 countries worldwide except China — sometime in May, although the exact date was not disclosed.

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]

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