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Russian-Targeted MMORPG Faces Unique Obstacles 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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Russian-Targeted MMORPG Faces Unique Obstacles

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  • by c.emmertfoster ( 577356 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:19AM (#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.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:43AM (#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 [lineage.com] (which has over 2 million active players).
      • by Errabes ( 711809 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:37AM (#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...)
      • by Anonymous Coward
        >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.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          >>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 fr
  • American's can learn (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mork29 ( 682855 ) <keith@yelnick.us@army@mil> on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:31AM (#8337769) Journal
    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.
    • 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...
    • "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 http://sphere.yandex.ru/rus/screens.xml (the eng screenshot section don't work)

      I wonder how the gameplay is.
  • English website. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:32AM (#8337773)
    Their English website is here [yandex.ru].

    The link to the English site on their Russian web page (as linked in the Slashdot article) - is broken.
    • Handy link, thanks. I have trouble even playing something as bandwidth-friendly as BZFlag [bzflag.org] 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. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @07:43AM (#8338150) Journal
    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. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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 [gunbound.net] has a different formula for cash-earning: allowing people to
      • 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 s

    • 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 alre

      • 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, differen
    • Re:Nice idea. (Score:2, Informative)

      by shepuk ( 588339 )
      UK players can already use pay-as-you-go top-up cards [splashplastic.com] to pay for many popular MMORPGs, via an account at paybycash [paybycash.com]. These cards can be credited at any outlet that offers mobile phone swipes.
  • 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?
  • by ghostlibrary ( 450718 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:36AM (#8339077) Homepage Journal
    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!
  • play online now, only 29.95 oz/mo

  • Red Dawn? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Eklypz ( 731361 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @02:45PM (#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!

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake