GamesCampus today announced the Shutdown of its Online Trading Card Game Carte. While this is an expected move, the news made me sad as we invested a lot of work and efforts during the launch of the title (Disclaimer: I was in charge of Marketing and BD for their EU office From April 2011 and Feb 2013). The shutdown of the game is a showcase for the mistakes a publisher can make, once he publishes a title globally. I apologize for my lack of native English in this text in advance.
The product that was shown to us once the decision was made to publish the title in Europe was obviously in Korean. But what we saw was a good idea for an online trading card game: Free2play, a good story, very nice artworks. We thought this could be a nice niche title, strong in its focused target group and potentially a long-term success, if we would provide enough new content, meet the customers needs and do our job in terms of community management.
In the EU, Carte was managed by an outstanding Producer initially, who had a history in trading card games (he was a “magic the gathering” referee years earlier) and definitely knew how this could become a successful title in this TCG subculture. An interesting background, if you look at the communication between the development company and the EU publisher later.
The first mistake
The English version of Carte was exclusively given to the US branch of our Korean mothership. Obviously, nobody at the EU office was too happy about this. From our perspective this was a practice of subsidizing our brothers and sisters with a significant share of EU players (the European branch of gamescampus was only responsible for the german version of the game initially. This was changed in late 2012, as far as i remember).
A new hope
There are several examples of online TCGs, published by Asian Game Companies. Some were done via subscription models, other lacked good translation quality, several ones were super-overprized. We knew there was a market and we knew it could be possible to be successful. We made a focus-group test with hardcore TCG players from whole Germany that came to our Berlin-office for the test. The feedback was quite promising. Although several Features were missing (Trading Function!, Ranking, etc. etc.) we thought getting them implemented to the game would be a question of time. Word-of-mouth started to show effects, a small momentum within this small, very focused target group was happening.
The beta was done, we were close to go to commercial Service. Across all branches, we had the highest ARPUs, the highest Paying-User Ratio, the highest activity of players compared to signed-up accounts. But to match the revenue expectations given to us from never-never land, we knew we would need essential features to be added to the game which were requested by Players as well as ourselves.
Countless minutes were invested in meetings, convincing the Korean developing house and our so called global coordinator in our mother company in Seoul that EU Version would need priority in getting features the Players requested. Unfortunately, the person over there was nearly not able to communicate in English and they decided to prioritize dev ressources to the nearly dead Korean version instead of the English and German one, which were still healthy.
Ignorance by the Developing Company
Our Producer suggested an ELO-Ranking. The Game Developers didn´t even know what he was talking about. He tried to explain it with League of Legends as example. They said they didn´t like the Game, claimed it to be not successful. So the ELO Ranking was postponed and declared as “not that important update”.
I mentioned initially Carte was a Trading Card Game. In fact, the game NEVER had a trading function. The trading function was never realized, promised a lot of times by the Developing Company. Instead of being finished, they worked on features for the dying Korean version and the also failed Japanese version. Please note that at the time i am speaking about, German players had the highest share on the server population in terms of activity, revenues and conversions.
From a title that created hope and positive reactions by TCG addicts, we saw a change of the communities mood. The job went more and more into keeping customers loyal. We tried to balance missing features with ingame-events, self-organized tournaments (the game didn´t offer a function for this) and keep the population loyal. We did a lot. But what could we do without the necessary support? The most requested features by the Players were not given to them. So a lot of them left.
Bugged out by useless discussions and several tries to explain the EU market to the Korean Developers, the Producer quit the Job. His successor followed eleven months later. Both belong to the most talented workers i´ve seen in this industry. Both are now working at very well-known and successful Game Companies in Europe.
1. When you source a Game, convince yourself the Development Company can meet a global publishers needs.
2. When you publish a Game globally, listen to your local teams.
3. If the customers needs are different in the specific territories, give them what they want.
4. If you publsih a Game globally, put somebody on the coordination part who is fluent in English at least.
5. Set goals to your team that actually CAN be achieved if you want to keep them sustainably motivated.