East vs. West in MMORPGs

There are a lot of cultural and game-play difference between Eastern and Western MMORPGs. World of Warcraft, the planet’s biggest MMORPG, is the West’s crowning glory and is the epitome of all things “western”, i.e. subscription, gameplay, style and theme. For us Asians, we embrace the F2P (free-to-play) business model, Item Mall and (to some extent) grinding.

Join me as I examine the many difference between Eastern and Western preference(s) in online gaming…

Here’s a simple table to illustrate;

Let’s examine the differences in detail…

  • Business Model – Westerners are more used to the subscription business model. This is partly due to the fact that majority of their users play from home. Most of the MMORPG publishers in the Southeast Asian region make their money from users playing in Internet Cafes/shops. Although developed countries such as Japan and Korea have a great broadband infrastructure, most of their neighbors still have to play catch-up. Another fact is that credit card use over the web is “normal” to the west vs. the “caution” that we Asians seem to exhibit, hence the widespread favor of the F2P model over the monthly subscription fees.
  • Items – Since Western MMORPGs are subscription based, you can get the best gear by either being good (or lucky) at major boss/dungeon raids OR shelling out real cash and buying it online. Even mundane regular items have to be farmed. Meanwhile, the Item Mall is the medium of choice for Asians. Some games even sell expensive and uber-rare items via the online mall. Crafting materials and Exp-modifying items account for majority of the sales.
  • Quest vs. Grind – By design it seems, there is MORE GRIND in Asian MMORPGs than Western games. When you go to various forums or blogs, you’ll hear the common phrase “Life begins at 70″… simply put, there really is more content at the zenith of the level cap in western games vs. Asian MMOs. I’m not saying that ALL Western games or ALL Asian games are so. There are, of course, exceptions.

In the US or Europe, it seems that they frown upon or “look down” on Free-to-Play games and see them as “second rate”. As polar opposites, businesses try to find opportunities to test their games at either side of the globe. But I kinda think that it will be quite difficult to convince a majority of Asians to adopt and fall in love with a new subscription-based game. Though not by preference alone, there are a number of F2P games out there that can knock the socks off any MMO from the West.

Being an Asian, I still prefer the games from this part of the world.

What about you?

(c) 2008 http://gmtristan.com


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