Nexon America Community Manager Hime recently interviewed Min Kim, Nexon America’s VP of Marketing. Check it out below!
Global MapleStory is really the story of two teams: the development team in Seoul, Korea, and the publisher/operations team in Los Angeles, California. To celebrate the fifth anniversary, we’re doing a retrospective from both Los Angeles, and Seoul.
Read the interviews to learn more about the early days of Nexon America, and how the dev team works their magic.
Pioneer of Nexon America, Min Kim
You may know Min Kim as the face of Nexon America. He’s one of the individuals responsible for taking MapleStory global back in 2005. Now as the Nexon America’s Vice President of Marketing, we asked him share his memories about Global MapleStory.
Community Manager Hime: As one of the pioneers of Global MapleStory, how do you remember the early days of Nexon America and bringing the game over?
Min Kim: In the early days of Nexon America we were still operating out of Seoul in Korea, so you could say things were very different. I had moved to Korea from the New York/New Jersey area to work at Nexon during the summer of 2003. I then transferred to our subsidiary, Wizet, to be a producer on MapleStory’s global service during the summer of 2004.
Things were pretty crazy during those days. It was an iron man production. I had very little staff and worked till the early morning hours every day doing localization work, GMing, customer service, marketing, content development, website planning, and a bit of everything else. Because we were in Korea, it was pretty hard to hire people fluent in English and American culture. When the team grew to about 10 people, we realized that it would be quite difficult to scale and meet the demand for MapleStory which was showing incredible growth in North America while still operating in Korea.
Our US office officially started in 2005, but we didn’t open a permanent space in the U.S. until 2006. We went through a number of names. We were Wizet and NX Games until we finally became Nexon America. It’s funny how people talk about how different things were during the early days when Wizet was around, but Nexon America has always been pretty much the same people doing the same things under a new logo. When the site changes to BlockParty.com, we’ll probably hear about how much people miss Nexon America.
CM: Why was MapleStory chosen to be globalized?
MK: To be honest, we weren’t sure how well the game was going to do and where it was going to be popular. We had already parted ways with our previous US office around that same period. Broadband adoption wasn’t very high and the file download size was pretty big. It’s a tribute to how good the game is that North America and South East Asia began tearing through our servers almost as soon as the game was available. To take care of the different versions of the game properly, we split up our service and our partner, Asiasoft, took over the South East Asian service. We continued servicing the rest. Things have continued to change since and now we’re really mostly focussed on North America and Oceania with the exception of some legacy customers from other parts of the world.
We have heard a few complaints about our approach and our service areas. There are actually a lot of good reasons why we operate the business this way. The 5th Anniversary actually provides a good opportunity to give some insight into why things work the way they do:
First, there’s the community. MapleStory lives and breathes thanks to our fans. A huge part of the MapleStory experience is playing with your friends and the greater MapleStory community online. If we had lots of non-English speaking players in the community, it could really hamper that.
Second, there’s the content. When we first opened the service, we looked at content from a global perspective. We then realized that we couldn’t please everyone and that content from one culture could be confusing or irrelevant to another. That’s one of the reasons why Korea, China, Japan, Europe, etc. all have their own local services and different content.
Third is the issue of network performance. Because our games are online, network performance greatly affects the user experience. Our servers are located in the United States; having players connect from many countries overseas could ruin the experience for the greater community, especially for peer-to-peer games.
Finally there’s the cost. Nexon’s games are free to play, but they’re not free to run or operate. We have to pay for bandwidth, servers, employees and a lot more, so we offer NX to players as a means of making money. When we get players coming in from geographic areas where we cannot offer NX, it costs us money that we can’t cover through the sale of NX.
For all these reasons, we found the best method of globalization was localization. We can simply offer a better service to our local players by focusing on a specific region. Many of Nexon’s services are local through either a direct presence like Nexon America or a licensing relationship with partners and I encourage players to support their local service.
CM: What were some of the big things you had to do when Nexon America was just starting out?
MK: Back then everyone had to pull double and triple duty. I certainly learned a lot by having an opportunity to interact all aspects of the business. With so few of us around in the beginning we had to work as a team just to figure out what was going on.
Working at the data center was especially memorable. Data centers are gigantic refrigerators where servers are hosted for all your favorite online services. Ours has biometric hand scans and ridiculous security. Two of my favorite moments were moving 60 servers by myself when we outgrew our server space and freezing for over 24 hours inside the data center during a “patch” on my birthday.
I have to say though, that some of the most fun moments were policing MapleStory as a GM. It allowed me to interact with players about the game. I don’t do it anymore, but I do miss it.
CM: You were a Game Master?!
MK: As part of my tasks initially, I did patrol the servers. I played good cop / bad cop between Stoveboy and CountSpatula. Mwahahahahaha!
CM: CountSpatula and Stoveboy? How did you pick the name Stoveboy?
MK: I have a lot of people that give me weird looks because of how many of my nicknames use some variant of ”Stove.” It’s nothing weird or exciting, though. My grandfather gave me my name and when I asked my father about what it means he told me something about being great and high up. When I went to college and checked the Chinese to English dictionary, I found that the character actually meant “Stove” or a kind of cookware. Seriously! What the heck, right? Anyway, I figured stoves are always cooking something up, so I chose to embrace it.
CM: We’ve hit five years now with Global MapleStory. What surprised you the most?
MK: Here’s something that’s really surprising:
The average age of our players is between 17 and 18. I think it’s awesome that we’ve been able to reach and resonate with this audience. When the game first came out, people thought the art style wouldn’t work with a Western audience. I’m so happy they were wrong.
17, 18 and 19 are a very interesting period in people’s lives. Younger teens are looking forward to it while people that have moved on look back fondly on those years. We love that MapleStory is one of those things that creates really positive memories during a crucial time in people’s lives.
MapleStory is a time machine. Working on MapleStory has literally fast forwarded my life five years and I really don’t know where all the time went. When I look at the game, it continues to grow and the development team continues to breathe new life into it with great new content. I think because of the art style the game went with, it will never look old.
CM: What do you think contributed to the success of Global MapleStory?
MK: There are too many things to list, but the biggest thing is really the dedication of our fans.
Thank you so much!
CM: Pie or cake?
MK: Bake sale cupcakes FTW!