Mobile Developer Netmarble Experiences Profit Decline in 2019

Netmarble Corp. recently published its fourth quarter earnings for fiscal year 2019 and the results are somewhat unexpected. Netmarble’s quarter four year-over-year revenue growth for 2019 increased by 13.3% but it still experienced a decline of 11% from the previous quarter and a overall net profit decrease of 26.1% for all of 2019.

The King of Fighters Allstar Review High Kick

 

Normally, when we think of the mobile game industry, the first thing that comes to mind is the explosive growth in recent years, but that appears to be slowing. Netmarble is one of the most prominent developers and publishers of mobile games in the world and has some incredibly high-profile titles like Lineage 2: Revolution, Marvel Future Fight, BTS World, and The King of Fighters Allstar. The company was clearly busy last year with a number of new releases, but clearly expenses outweighed revenue as sales only increased by 7.6% while operating profit decreased by 16.5% and net profit decreased by 26.1%.

The following statement was made by Netmarble Co-CEO Seungwon Lee:

“The launches of our AAA mobile titles such as THE KING OF FIGHTERS ALLSTAR, BTS WORLD, and the continued success of our ongoing titles like Lineage 2: Revolution and MARVEL Contest of Champions, demonstrate our ability to deliver globally acclaimed games year after year. Following Magic: ManaStrike’s worldwide January launch, The Seven Deadly Sins: Grand Cross’ global release in March, and upcoming launches of Blade & Soul Revolution in Asia in Q2 and the global launch of MARVEL Realm of Champions in the first half of 2020, we continue to produce innovative, exciting new titles while supporting our diverse portfolio of world-class, mobile gaming experiences in 2020.”

 

Source: Press Release

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Magic: ManaStrike Interview: Producer Kay Kim on the Origins and Future of the Game

Magic: ManaStrike is a new way to play Magic: The Gathering on Android and iOS, offering a take on the card game that pushes it closer to games such as Clash Royale and Minion Masters. Following our review and the addicting gameplay that it boasts, we had the opportunity to speak with Kay Kim, the Netmarble US Producer for this game.

In our interview, Kim will talk about how the opportunity to develop Magic: ManaStrike came up, how players are reacting to the game, what is planned for the future, and discusses the possibility of taking the game into eSports territory.

Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m Kay Kim, the Netmarble US producer for Magic: ManaStrike.

How would you describe Magic: ManaStrike to new players?

Magic: ManaStrike takes the Magic: The Gathering franchise and places it in a whole new genre—real-time PVP strategy. Players take the role of a Planeswalker, a powerful character who can summon monsters and spells from their deck to win the battle on a 3D real-time battlefield. Additionally, the Planeswalkers themselves can enter the battlefield. They come equipped with unique special skills which, if used strategically, can turn the tide of battle.

When did you acquire the Magic: The Gathering license, and did you immediately feel that it would be a good fit for the real-time PvP genre, or were other game concepts studied as well?

The original Magic: The Gathering game is a great strategy game with a 26-year history so, when we were approached by Wizards of the Coast to come up with a new gameplay experience for Magic on mobile platforms, we were excited. We realized it would be great to blend the strategy of the core card game with the fun and depth of a Player vs. Player (PvP) battler. We really wanted to bring the characters, creatures, and spells of Magic rendered in full 3D models on mobile.

From there, we worked closely with Wizards of the Coast to make sure it lined up with the rich history of the constantly-expanding Magic multiverse. We believe that the game will appeal to strategy gamers worldwide. It’s easy to pick up, but with a depth of strategy that will pose a challenge to master, all with the incredible characters and lore that Magic: The Gathering offers as a fantasy brand.

Magic ManaStrike Interview Planeswalker

How would you convince non-Magic: The Gathering fans to give Magic: ManaStrike a go?

This game is a combination of a fantastic IP with a lot of story behind it, and fun, rewarding gameplay. If you’re new to the Magic: The Gathering franchise, don’t worry! Magic: ManaStrike uses a new gameplay style that will be enjoyable for all players, but stays true to Magic: The Gathering’s roots. You can learn about the different monsters and spells as you play the game, and you can experiment with different Planeswalkers to discover which one is the best fit for you. And along the way, you’ll learn a little bit about their history and personalities.

And of course, you’ll be winning matches, leveling up cards, and getting more and more great rewards.

Many players are comparing the game with Clash Royale. However, I would say that it looks more like Minion Masters. Are you a fan of these games, and if so, how does Magic: ManaStrike improves on them?

At Netmarble, we are gamers first. We play many games across many platforms so we make games we want to play because then we know players will love them too. Magic: ManaStrike allows players to come in and learn the mechanics of the game. As their experience grows, players start to strategize more and become more engrossed in the game. Seasoned players can also come in and enjoy it right away. We feel we’ve created a game nearly anyone can love.

Magic ManaStrike Interview Nissa Revane

Can you tell us which one is your favorite Planeswalker in Magic: ManaStrike, and why?

Tezzeret is my favorite because of his high versatility in attacks. His basic attack is a huge AoE damage to ground units; when deployed, he summons an additional aerial unit which does an AoE attack as well. Tezzeret’s Gravity Sphere skill is great because it will pull enemies close to an area and stun them for a second. And his funky reggae hairstyle and general appearance look awesome in my opinion.

How is the overall player reaction to game balance, including the game-changing Planeswalker abilities?

Of course, players always have opinions about what is and isn’t working in the game. We have a discord where players actively discuss what they think. And we relay that feedback to the developers. Also, what might seem over- or under-powered early on might be viewed differently later. Regarding Planeswalkers specifically, some powers are more situational than others. Finding the best times and ways to use them can often turn a match around but will often require more strategic thinking.

That being said, we are carefully monitoring the game and will adjust things as necessary to ensure balanced gameplay.

Clearly a lot of work went into the presentation of the game, particularly the Planeswalkers. Was it an arduous task making all these stunning artworks come to life in the arena, given the small size of the units?

Using the Unity engine and working closely with the Wizards of the Coast team, we took our time to ensure the artwork stayed true to what Magic players have come to love while still putting our spin on it and bringing our expertise in mobile gaming.

Magic ManaStrike Interview Jace Beleren

Do you plan on adding new Planeswalkers and cards in the future? What kind of timeframe can we expect for content updates?

We are always adding new content to our games and looking for fun ways to keep our games fresh. As you know, we have just launched the game so right now we are focused on providing a great experience and ensuring players enjoy the game. There will be updates coming soon though, so stay tuned.

Do you have plans to take the game into eSports territory?

We aim to make our games as fun as possible for players. There is always a possibility for future esports plans if the demand is there from fans.

Anything else that you would like to add about Magic: ManaStrike?

We are very proud of what we’ve built for players and hope they continue to enjoy the game. And keep in touch. There’s more Magic: ManaStrike to come!

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MMO Money: A Week of Lawsuits and Nintendo Being Awesome

Lawsuits abound this week in the online gaming world with both Activision Blizzard and Epic Games the focus of new lawsuits. Meanwhile, Nintendo gives us a much-needed breath of fresh air with how they treat gamers and their employees. Bidding for Nexon is set to begin in April with the list of bidders reduced to just 5. Find all of this and more in this week’s MMO Money.

 

Nexon Shortlists Five Bidders for the Company

There has been quite a lot of interest in Nexon recently from major companies around the world including Disney, EA, Comcast, Tencent, and many others. But, Nexon has now lowered that list to just 5 bidders. Those five include Tencent and Kakao Corp. along with three private equity firms, Bain Capital, MBK Partners, and an unidentified firm. Quite significantly Netmarble isn’t included in this list. Netmarble had been putting together a consortium of Korean firms to bid together, believing that selling to an overseas company will damage the local games industry. In fact, this may be why we don’t see any Western-based interests in the shortlist. Bidding for the 98.64% share of Nexon that is expected to be worth as much as $13.3 billion is expected to begin in early April.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Nintendo Asks Mobile Partners to Stop Players From Spending So Much

In a time when it seems like all game companies are after is your money Nintendo comes out and gives you a little bit of faith in the industry once more. The company is concerned with its self-image and has asked some of its mobile game development partners to adjust the microtransactions in their games so players are less likely to overspend. A source at CyberAgent, who owns the developers of Dragalia Lost told the Wall Street Journal, “Nintendo is not interested in making a large amount of revenue from a single smartphone game. If we managed the game alone, we would have made a lot more.”

This also comes less than a week after a recruitment page for Nintendo shed some light on what it’s like working for the company. The average salary is ¥9.03 million, that’s $80,000, employees can potentially get bonuses in June and December plus a pay increase every April. The average workday at Nintendo is seven hours and forty-five minutes long. As if all of that doesn’t already sound amazing full-time employees stay at the company for an average of 13.5 years. Anyone familiar with the games industry in the West will know that developers tend not to stay in one company for very long. If you’re interested in knowing more about that check out this article from Polygon.

From a personal point of view both of these pieces of news make me more likely to look at Nintendo games and support what they’re doing. Their views and the way they treat their employees is a breath of fresh air in the games industry today.

 

Source: Wall Street Journal, Games Industry

 

 

Vivendi Sells Remaining Ubisoft Shares

Ubisoft Joins Forces With Horror Movie Studio

Its been almost a year since Vivendi announced it was going to stop trying to acquire Ubisoft and finally the remaining shares it had in the company have been sold. The remaining shares it had was about 5% of the company, €429 million.

At one point in time, Vivendi owned a 27.3% stake in the company and though its attempts to own the company completely failed they did bring in about €2 billion, a capital gain of €1.2 billion. Though they failed to achieve their original goal you can hardly call the entire thing a failure. I’d love to fail my way to €2 billion, that’s about $2.2 billion USD. Vivendi has stated that they will honor their agreement and not buy shares in Ubisoft for at least 5 years.

Vivendi had previously owned Activision Blizzard but it sold the company to an investment group led by Bobby Kotick and Brian Kelly for $8.2 billion. That deal pushed Vivendi out of the games industry for 3 years until it bought its way back in with a hostile takeover of Gameloft.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

A New Law firm is Encouraging Shareholders to Sue Activision Blizzard Over Bungie Split

Another law firm is inviting shareholders to join in a class action lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, accusing the company of misleading shareholders over the end of its partnership with Bungie. The firm’s loss submission form makes the following claims:

Activision failed to disclose that “the termination of Activision Blizzard and Bungie’s partnership… was imminent”

That this termination “would foreseeably have a significant negative impact on Activision Blizzard’s revenues.”

And as a result “Activision Blizzard’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all times.”

Activision Blizzard previously said that the split from Bungie was because Destiny 2 failed to meet financial expectations. But in a recent SEC filing, the company recognized $164 million in revenue from Destiny for 2018 as a result of the split.

This comes at a time when shareholders for Activision Blizzard aren’t too happy with the company. They’ve had to warn investors that cutting hundreds of jobs (800 in total) may damage the company. They even went so far as to say there can be “no assurance that our business will be more efficient or effective” than it was before this new strategy.

Why can’t you be more like Nintendo?

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Man Sues Epic Games Over Predatory Loot Boxes

While we’re on the topic of lawsuits we should mention that Epic Games is being sued, yet again. This time though it isn’t because they used a dance in their game, instead it’s over allegations that Epic Games has engaged in predatory schemes with loot boxes in Fortnite. They allege that Epic intentionally designed Save the World to hinder player’s progress if they didn’t spend real money. They also say that Epic has “made a fortune on in-game purchases, preying in large part on minors who are especially susceptible to such predatory tactics.” The lawsuit accuses Epic of violating California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law.

What the lawsuit doesn’t mention though is that since January Epic Games now shows the contents of loot llamas in Save the World before they’re purchased with V-Bucks. So it is possible that the lawsuit won’t go anywhere since they’ve already made changes to the areas that the lawsuit covers.

 

Source: Games Industry

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MMO Money: Breaking Records and Taking Names

Grand Theft Auto V makes the news, there have been fines for shady lootbox practices, and the digital games industry is still climbing. You’ll be able to find all of this plus more Fortnite news than you can shake a stick at in today’s MMO Money, the biweekly column that takes a look at online gaming industry business news from around the world.

 

GTA V is the Most Profitable

With $6 billion in revenue since it launched in 2013, GTA V is the most profitable piece of entertainment of all time. That’s more than Avatar brought in at the theater and more than Michael Jackson made with Thriller. It owes at least some of its longevity to the online multiplayer gameplay. The fact that it has been released on two generations of consoles is also a big boost for the game, as many players would have bought it twice. Want to know more? Check out what we said about it in a recent news post.

 

Superdata’s February Research

Just a day after the last MMO Money went live Superdata released their regular look at the month before for the games industry. You’ll never guess which games were the most talked about. Oh, did you guess Fortnite and PUBG? I guess it was kind of obvious, as that’s all anyone is talking about these days! Fortnite was the 6th highest grossing game in February on PC and the 3rd highest on console. It’s also still climbing, so don’t think we’re at the peak yet. Tencent’s mobile game QQ Speed has become one of the fastest climbing mobile titles, it launched in December and is already in the number two spot.

Digital spending in the US is up 21%. Most of that growth is from console spending. And yes, Fortnite is to thank for some of that as well. Also, social games and pay to play games are still shrinking year on year. The good news though is that the digital game market has grown 6% in the last year to $9.1 billion.

 

Bluehole Announces Record Year

It won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone to learn that Bluehole, the folks behind TERA and a little unknown game called PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had a record-breaking year in 2017. Their revenue for the year was approximately $631 million with $240 million in profit. Much of the company’s success is thanks to PUBG, which sold over 30 million copies in their first year since launch.

 

Fortnite Mobile Revenue Exceeds $15 Million in Less Than a Month

Since dropping the invite-only requirement, Fortnite Mobile has seen a massive spike in popularity. Daily revenue is at $1.8 million, making me think that I’m in the wrong business. It’s in the iOS top ten in 23 countries. All of this is only going to get bigger when Fortnite Mobile eventually releases on Android.

 

Netmarble Invests in K-Pop Label

online gaming industry business news

Netmarble is now the second largest shareholder in Big Hit, the label behind one of the biggest K-Pop acts at the moment, BTS. They announced back in February that they were working on a game based on the band called BTS World. They’ve invested around $190 million USD. They’ve also announced that as part of their big push into the West they’re moving their US office to Los Angeles. Their US office is currently in Buena Park, which is near Anaheim. So, for anyone who doesn’t live in Southern California the change is pretty insignificant in terms of distance. For anyone wondering, it’s 22 miles which is anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour away when driving.

 

Pokemon Go Fest Lawsuit Settled for $1.6 Million

pokemon go fest

Niantic is going to reimburse travel costs for those who traveled to Pokemon Go Fest last year in Chicago. This includes airfare, hotel costs, and car rentals, amongst other things. To qualify for a reimbursement you need to have checked in on the app at the festival and if you’re claiming more than $107 in expenses you must provide receipts. Niantic was quick to apologize after the disastrous event and at the time promised to refund tickets as well as give $100 worth of in-game currency and a legendary Pokemon. But the event was much more popular than they expected so tickets, which were originally selling for $20 were getting scalped for as much as $500. Fans traveled from all over the world to attend the event, something which will easily be more than $107. So, the lesson here is to always save those receipts.

 

Kakao Gets $9.42 million Investment

online gaming industry business news

Chinese developer Shanda Games has invested $9.42 million in Kakao Games. This was done through their Korean subsidiary Actoz Soft who Kakao is currently working with to launch Dragon Nest. This is just the latest in a series of investments made by companies in Kakao ahead of a planned IPO. Other investments recently have been from companies like Netmarble and Tencent. It isn’t clear yet when this IPO is going to happen, at the moment it’s thought to be happening sometime in 2018.

 

Lootbox Fines Handed out in South Korea

Sudden Attack

South Korea is the hero we all wish we had in our gaming lives. They’re handing out fines for dishonest lootbox practices, showing the world how things should be. They’ve handed out fines to Nexon, Netmarble, and Next Floor so far. In all, the three companies were fined nearly a million dollars combined, with the biggest fine going to Nexon for $875,000. What games did Nexon get hit for? You may be wondering, they were Sudden Attack and Counter-Strike Online 2. Specifically, the companies were fined for deceiving players and not providing accurate odds for winning any particular prize in a lootbox. Who is Next Floor? I had to look up the answer to this question myself. It would seem that they make mobile and social games in South Korea, including Dragon Flight, Destiny Child, World of Tactics, and Knights of Clan, as well as a few others. Right now we have our fingers crossed that these fines catch on around the world.

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7 MMO Developers to Watch at G-Star 2017

This weekend, the gaming world is gathering in Busan, South Korea, for G-Star 2017. With the decline in the MMO industry in the west, we are all looking to the east to carry us through. We’ve already had a few reveals at press events leading up to the convention, but what else might they have in store for us? Which game companies should you be keeping an eye out for? We’ll break it down in this week’s Listed.

 

NCSoft

We’re starting off the list with a studio that has already had quite an impressive pre-event. NCSoft revealed they’re working on Aion Tempest, Blade & Soul II, and Project TL. Two of these games are mobile and the third is a reworking of Lineage Eternal. There’s not any indication yet that Aion Tempest or Blade & Soul II will be released in the west. Mobile gaming doesn’t have the popularity in the west, so it could be very likely that they’re never released for us. Hopefully, there will be some indication during G-Star. Another possibility that we’re still holding out hope for is the release of Lineage M, a mobile port of the original Lineage. It’s already out in South Korea but there’s no sign of it being released globally yet. Editor’s Note: We now know that NCSoft will not be attending G-Star 2017.

 

Netmarble

Working along with NCSoft is Netmarble who has announced that it’s also working on a Blade & Soul mobile game. One title we would love to see is Aden, an open world mobile MMORPG that only released in South Korea earlier this year. But it seems pretty unlikely we’ll see Aden. Netmarble has announced that they’ll have Tera M, Icarus M, and the recently revealed Seven Knights II. All mobile games.

 

Bluehole/Kakao

Ascent: Infinite Realm

We’ve already seen an amazing trailer for the new upcoming steampunk MMORPG Ascent: Infinite Realm from Bluehole. We also know that it WILL be released in the west under the banner of Kakao. Bluehole is also the creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which of course has had global success this year. Will it be at G-Star? Of course, they will. In fact, there is going to be an eSports invitational taking place during the convention.  Will there be anything else? If there is it’ll be mobile and possibly not released globally. They’ve already got some pretty big MMOs on their plate.

 

Nexon

Nexon is the main sponsor of G-Star this year and they’re bringing quite a few games with them. First, they’ll have FIFA Online 4, which had a lot of people really excited as it was teased as an MMO collaboration with EA. There will also be two more EA collaborations on display: Need for Speed EDGE and Titanfall Online. Nexon had teased Project B a few weeks ago, which was revealed to be Battlerite, a MOBA currently in early access. They’ll only be bringing one mobile game with them, which makes them stand out from the others. That game is Overhit, and there’s no sign of it being released in the west yet. Finally, they’ll have a PC MMORPG with them called Moonlight Blade. It was revealed last year, but we’re hoping for more information on it, including release information. Nexon has many other titles in the works but it would seem that they’re all still being developed.

 

KOG

The developers behind Grand Chase and Elsword have revealed they have a new online PC game at G-Star this year. It’s called KurtzPel and it is colorful. What we know so far is that there is character customization and PvP. There will be a demo playable at G-Star, so hopefully, more information will come our way.

 

Gravity

The makers of Ragnarok Online will be attending G-Star 2017 with a few different titles available. According to gamebase.com.tw and through the power of Google Translate (so take these names with a grain of salt) they are Ro Ragnarok Legend: Legendary Eternal Love, Miriam Mirror, Miracle Pororo, RO Wonderland Legend Zero, Ragnarok Clicker. It seems very unlikely at the moment that they’ll be released in the west but we here at MMOGames are always optimistic.

 

ChangYou

Last week ChangYou announced Project Z Online and God Slayer Online. Project Z Online will use tab targeting and forgo gender-locks, which are all too common in games from that part of the world. God Slayer has been around for a long time in beta but apparently, ChangYou will have it at G-Star 2017 as well.

 

It looks like that’s everything that has been announced. There are of course a few titles we would like to see there, including Lost Ark which we have been waiting years to see. We would also love to see Dark and Light on display there but there hasn’t been any indication yet that it will be there.

Right now, making MMOs is considered risky busy. There aren’t really any AAA western MMORPGs in the pipelines so we have to look at the east to bring us these games. Unfortunately for PC gamers, it seems that mobile is taking over as the next big trend. For now, at least we have a few fantastic looking games coming in the future. It does leave us wondering if this trend will continue in the west, however. Will E3 2018 be dominated by mobile games? Only time will tell.

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