The mobile game ‘Blade’(Blade for kakao’), which was released in South Korea in 2014, was a hot topic in South Korean game industry. Because it was a mobile game that was developed with Unreal Engine3. The game was very successful for its brilliant graphics and excellent combat system. At the end of the year, it won the grand prize at 2014 Korea Game Awards. It was the first time that a mobile game received the grand prize at Korea Game Awards. Based on these achievements, Action Square(the developer of ‘Blade’) was also listed on KOSDAQ in 2014.
Later, Action Square released the mobile game ‘Three Kingdoms Blade’. But this game was not as successful as 'Blade'. And the mainstream genre of the South Korean mobile game industry had been changed to MMORPG. After that, Action Square was suffered.
In March 2018, Action Square appointed Park, Sang-woo as the new CEO. That was a hot topic at that time. Because it was the first time that a game critic became CEO of a game developer in South Korea.
After Park, Sang-woo took office, 'Blade2' was released in South Korea in June 2018. 'Blade2' was in the top 10 grossing apps at the beginning. But that was it. 'Blade2' did not get a good response. Action Square’s stock fell as well.
It has been almost a year since Park, Sang-woo took office. He is now carrying the big burdens of overcoming the failure of ‘Blade2’ and the success of the next game. Gamevu interviewed Park, Sang-woo at the Action Square office.
Q: It has been almost a year since you took office in Action Square.
Action Square needed change. The Korean game industry has been isolating from the global game market. The Chinese game market, which was the solution to this problem, has been closed. This has had a tremendous impact.
And 'Blade2' was not as successful as we expected. We have not been able to release games in China, so we continue to develop games. I think it is the role of the CEO to solve this situation.
Q: You were a game critic. Now, you are the CEO of a game developer. How did you become the CEO?
I changed my major from Oriental medicine to economics and then came into the game industry. It was the beginning of the South Korean game industry. The South Korean government also launched the Korea Game Agency and actively supported the game industry. And I participated in creating various ways to support the game industry. And there were many schools interested in games, so I also lectured at graduate school. A game critic was one of many things I did. Thanks to these various experiences, I worked in Webzen and 4:33. Then I joined Action Square as CEO.
Q: In the past, you said that the game companies should operate ‘real money transactions’. Do you still think like that?
At that time, my statement was that "if a game company can’t prevent ‘real money transactions’ in game, a game company might as well operate ‘real money transactions’" After that, South Korean game industry has completely changed. In the past, ‘real money transactions’ and macro programs were major issues. Now, these are all applied to free-to-play mobile games. South Korean game industry is changing rapidly.
Q: What was the most difficult thing since you took office?
It was the hardest thing to adjust the structure of the company. I thought I had to create a ‘good role model’ as the CEO of a medium-sized game company. After Action Square was listed on KOSDAQ in 2014, there were many game companies listed on the KOSDAQ. These companies had the same problem. ‘Stability’ I believed that the most important thing was to make the right system. If 200 people are working, it is necessary to have a system that can develop three or four games simultaneously.
Q: Action Square is not performing well. Since Action Square was listed on the KOSDAQ, it has continued to record deficits.
'Blade2' was not innovative. It was a similar game to other mobile action RPG that had been released. So, we looked back on how we develop ‘Blade2’. I thought we needed changes. It would not be easy to change the way we develop the game. But we have been creating a new game for a year. We will make efforts to improve future performance.
Q: Let's talk about 'Blade2'. Why do you think ‘Blade2’ failed?
There were many reasons. ‘Blade2’ was not created by Action Square alone. We had to discuss it with a lot of people. In the end, what we launched was just another common game. It was a big mistake.
Currently, the development team is making changes to 'Blade2'. At the same time, we are preparing to launch ‘Blade2’ on another platform. Developers are enjoying the new version.
Q: Action Square seems to have a similar will to ‘Hound 13’, which developed the mobile game 'Hundred Soul'.
Action Square developers love ‘Dark Soul’. What if ‘Dark Soul’ has an auto-combat system? It wouldn’t be fun. So as soon as I joined Action Square, I took all the staff to the movie theater and have them watch 'Ready Player One'. Through that movie, I wanted to send a message. “Developers are the people who make what they desire to make, not who make goods” Now, developers of Action Square are making what they desire to make.
Q: What are the new game projects that Action Square is currently developing?
There are 'Eternal Rhapsody', ' Gigantic X', and 'project AL'. And there's ‘Blade2’ Nintendo switch version. And there is 'Blade2' MMORPG that is being developed by a Chinese game company. The team that developed 'Blade 2' is now developing a new project. And we are preparing to test 'Blade2' global version.
Q: It has been reported that Action Square will launch 'Eternal Rhapsody' and 'Gigantic X' in 2019. Please explain this game.
‘Eternal Rhapsody’ is a fantasy simulation game. It is a game where a user can trade, mine, product, and sets up a mercenary group to adventure. We are now testing this game in the Philippines and getting some feedback. We will launch this game worldwide in the first quarter of 2019.
'Gigantic X' is a top-down-shooter. Think of 'Helldivers'. I have tried many mobile top-down-shooters. In terms of quality, I do believe 'Gigantic X' is the best mobile top-down-shooter. We will add Player vs Player system as well as raid and team battle systems Action Square plans to soft-launch this game in the first quarter of 2019.
Q: How is ‘Eternal Rhapsody’ is doing in soft-launch?
Local users are reacting differently than we expected. It was evaluated as 'different from the other Korean mobile game'. There is also a response saying that it is good because it is not ‘Pay to Win’ kind of game. There are a lot of users who are saying “I am not unfamiliar with those systems” and now we are making various improvements.
Q: Recently, a top-down-shooter 'Brawl Stars’ is hot. Action Square is also developing a top-down-shooter 'Gigantic X'.
The success of 'Brawl Stars’ seems to help us. Top-down-shooter is a hardcore genre, and 'Brawl Stars’ is a casual game. Thanks to this, the user base of the top-down-shooter has grown. Among them, there will be users who want a hardcore top-down-shooter, and that users will be interested in 'Gigantic X'.
Q: Why does Action Square want to release ‘Blade2’ Nintendo Switch version?
We had tested 'Blade2' on the Nintendo Switch and Steam, in the preparation for the next project. Then we decided to release ‘Blade2’ Nintendo Switch version. It is a completely different game from the mobile game 'Blade2' and will be released in the second quarter of 2019.
We chose the Nintendo Switch because of the size of the company. When Action Square develops multiple games, one team would need about 40 people. I thought the Nintendo Switch was the best platform to do that. Developing PS4 or Xbox One version is not easy, because the required quality is higher.
The ‘Blade2’ switch version is a classic action RPG. It is not a free-to-play game. We also considered making it as difficult as 'Dark Soul', but now we are looking for appropriate level design.
Q: Will 'Three Kingdoms Blade' be released in China?
The Chinese government hasn’t issued the approval number of 'Three Kingdoms Blade'. But the development has proceeded smoothly. However, we don’t know when the Chinese government would issue the approval number of 'Three Kingdoms Blade'. Our goal is to release this game in South-East Asia and Other regions in 2019.
Q: What has changed in 'Blade2' global version?
Auto-combat system is no longer a major system of this game. Now, the user would have to challenge. Also, even after getting a powerful weapon, it will be still interesting.
Q: What are the goals of Action Square?
There are two goals. First, I think we should make up for the slump. I think the most important thing is not to follow the existing games, but to develop innovative games. Second, I want Action Square to be a company that developers can make what developers desire to make.
Top-down-Shooter, Roguelike are hardcore genres. I think that this genre can be successful enough in the global game industry. Action Square did not take these challenges. Because we were only looking at the South Korean game market.
Now, developers are suggesting a lot of ideas. I would like Action Square to be a company that has a lot of developers like this, and a company that boldly develops this kind of game and shows it around the world.
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