Through more than ten years of development, today online games are available in a wide variety. They are just like the stars in the sky, among which, AION: The Tower of Eternity (“AION”) and World of Warcraft (“WoW”) are the most shining ones. And in the online game market of year 2009, AION and WoW WLK expansion pack are undoubtedly the two heavyweights.
After WoW gained global popularity, in China there emerged some MMOGs claimed to be “WoW killers”. Dungeons & Dragons Online was one of those in early days. However, its publisher in China Shanda shut down all the games servers and stopped its operation on July 31st last year. Then Age of Conan, a game developed by Norway based Funcom, was completely defeated by WoW. This year, the battle between AION, a game developed by South Korean game tycoon NCsoft, and WoW took place in China.
AION, which was claimed to be the most system-demanding game with the largest operation capacity ever, is a big title Shanda imported from South Korea to grab market share from WoW. From the very beginning, Shanda placed high expectations on AION, hoping it will defeat WoW. It listed Aion as one of its major projects this year. A few days ago, Shanda even put on a so-called “the world’s largest online game advertisement” on Shanghai Jinmao Tower. The developers of AION put forward a lot of new concepts as well, hoping to establish a game world that is different from any other MMOGs. According to them, the game is neither sci-fic nor fantasy, and is not too strange to be understood. We can see how the concept was conveyed through some of its screenshots, concept arts and trailers.
This April, AION officially made a challenge against WoW in China. Before its open beta, AION had already gained feverish popularity among Chinese players. A large number of players, some of whom are WoWers, had very high expectations on Aion. During the second closed beta this April, everyday there would be thousands of players waiting on the server. This kind of phenomenon continued until it went into open beta. Now, two months have passed, and we began to feel that the popularity of AION has remarkably cooled off. There are many reasons for the change, but one of them is probably because Shanda started to charge money for Aion. Shanda’s promotions for Aion were so successful that many players were attracted to try AION out. However, most of them came for its fame only and a majority of players chose to leave after it began to charge money, which, to some extent at least, indicates that this game is not attractive enough.
Besides, from the discussions on some major game forums in China, we can see a great many players were disappointed at Aion. Initially they had high expectations but after playing it, they feel frustrated. They feel AION is an apple of Sodom, and it is by no means comparable to WoW in terms of classes, scenes, instances, quests or gameplay. They even called AION “the King of Kimchi”.
As a matter of fact, while the online game market in China is still in upsurge, the market share of South Korean games has been shrinking. South Korean games, which used to account for half of the market share, are now being replaced gradually by western and Chinese games such as WoW, XYJ Online, and TLBB Online, forcing Korean games’ market share in China to decline stably.