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March 6, 2008
GDC 2008 - OGPlanet and CABAL ONLINE
 

By Paul Philleo

The free-to-play way is becoming a widely accepted business model for massively multiplayer online games, especially those games originating from the Pacific. The basic game experience is usually downloaded for free and offers plenty of free play for all players, but the revenue stream does kick in through micro-transactions, premium options and additional content.

OGPlanet, or Online Gaming Planet, is not just one of the contenders for this space, but a portal pulling several of these free-to-play online games together under one domain. If David Hoffman, Executive Producer for OGPlanet has his way, they’ll be the leader in the field in North America. OGPlanet’s premise is simple. This online gaming portal offers free to play, free to download, game titles, with no subscription attached. Combinations of item-based sales, pre-paid cards similar to what Nexon has done with Maple Story, and in-game advertising are what OGPlanet have in mind. However, not all of the elements for their revenue stream are in place just yet.

Right now, OGPlanet has four PC titles under its wing: BB Tanks, an action/adventure game similar to Worms for the multiplayer online crowd; Albatross 18, a multiplayer online golf title; Rumble Fighter, an online fisticuffs title; and most recently added to their pool of titles, CABAL ONLINE, an MMORPG, which just went live last week Friday.

“We’re after the players who enjoy free MMO games, and we want (OGPlanet) to be their first and only location for getting games they can play for free,” explained Hoffman. His angle of attack for making that happen is four-fold.

First, OGPlanet has aimed to staff the games with as many developers as possible from American companies, like Blizzard, THQ and Activision. Even though the games they offer were imported and localized from the Pacific so far, the developers that maintain and update them are American. “From the website to the games themselves, we want the experience to be consistent throughout for (North American) gamers,” Hoffman said.

Secondly, OGPlanet is working to partner with well-established and proven game industry companies that are known and trusted overall in North America, to help float their brand. So far, they’re signed on with Nvidia but Hoffman pointed out that they have several other companies they’re talking with.

Thirdly, as Hoffman emphatically insisted, “We don’t want anyone to be able to buy game-boosting items that unfairly disadvantage other players in our games.” That wouldn’t include aesthetics-enhancing items for avatars and some play enhancement items like XP boosts and expanding inventory slots.

Lastly, Hoffman prides OGPlanet on their internal responsiveness to their game-playing community in the game forums. He, and many others at the company (even those not in the community management side of the business) watch for issues, feedback and questions from the players. Having perused their forums, specifically for CABAL ONLINE, the community side did indeed seem well-maintained and flame-free, to their credit.

CABAL ONLINE

While didn’t have time to delve into CABAL ONLINE with David Hoffman, we do have new media from the freshly-launched game. CABAL ONLINE is a PC-only action/adventure MMORPG with a 3D third-person perspective a la Dungeon Siege. The game will be immediately familiar to anyone with experience with a classic fantasy MMORPG, but the game play is evidently optimized for new or more casual users.

Six character classes, hundreds of weapons types, 170 levels to rise through, an extensive crafting system that can be applied to all in-game items and much more. Access to vehicles, like astral cycles and boards for rapid travel, can be counted among the features within CABAL ONLINE.

OGPlanet and their aggressive plan to stake their claim in the free-to-play online gaming business is a logical gambit to make when the subscription space is dominated by World of Warcraft and a few other heavy-hitter MMOs. However, this portal is not alone and it may be a year or more before we see who’s cornered the largest share of the market. Having a suite of approachable titles like CABAL ONLINE isn’t a bad start, though.

David Hoffman, Executive Producer for OGPlanet

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