Friday, April 28, 2017

DIY Noodles! Never Hit Face! : New Westward Journey Online II

SuperData released one of their regular, gnomic infodumps today and Wilhelm had something to say about it, as he usually does. I find their charts mildly intriguing, although not really for the statistical tidbits they include as bait for anyone that might have a few thousand dollars to spend on the full report.

What occasionally catches my attention are the names of MMOs I've never heard of, yet which are apparently doing well enough to make these Top Ten of Everything lists. I've long been aware that there are far more MMORPGs in the world than we ever hear about, far less get to play, but this is evidence that there are still some really big ones out there, waiting to be discovered.

It's been a year or two since I last took a tally of all the MMOs I've dabbled with over the past decade and a half but I'm sure the count is past a hundred and fifty by now. It's a good sample but I imagine there are several times as many I've never tried.

The new chart of "top grossing titles" includes a name that's new to me, although it shouldn't be because, as Wilhelm points out, it has appeared before, albeit not for a while. For reasons unknown, New Westward Journey Online II jumped up to #4 this month, having not previously troubled the charts in 2017.

For one moderately crazed moment I entertained the fantasy that I might try to download NWJO2 and give it a run. Then I came to my senses and decided I'd just have a quick google to satisfy my curiosity.

Considering this is such a commercially successful game, it has what I would consider to be a very short Wikipedia entry but it's packed with surprising details. For a start, this is no new entrant to the MMO scene.

In a manner eerily pre-reminiscent of FFXIV's troubles, it seems that the game had such a problematic launch it had to stop and start over, which is where the "II" in  New Westward Journey Online II comes from. Like FFXIV, the relaunch went well and the game became one of China's most successful MMOs.

In 2005 it boasted peak concurrent user numbers close to 600,000.  That's the equivalent of having every single EverQuest subscriber, at the time when EQ was by far the leading Western MMO, all logged in at once.

The closure after launch wasn't the only blackout in NWJO2's long run. It's a game that courts controversy, or so it seems. The wiki entry notes that "Unlike many Western MMORPG's, the games feature prominent nudity and anti-religious themes" but that wasn't why NetEase, the publishers, were forced to take it offline for a few months: the game was suspended for in-game criticism of China's ruling Communist party.

All of which makes it sound quite intriguing. I visited the website, hoping to find out more. NetEase has an English site - well, it's English of a sort - but it's skewed heavily towards business readers. The "Key Features" section begins like this:

"Loved by Chinese gamers, with 20% Market Penetration Rate, 5% Market Share, and awarded as the Annual Revenue Top10, Most Favorite Online Game in China, etc".

I love that "etc". At least the business jargon makes sense. After that opening paragraph things get kind of weird:

"Experiencing the dripping fun of Chinese Westward Journey culture by releasing 450 free growth mode and 38 kinds of child growth parenting system".

Not sure I want to know what that means.

I followed the link to the main game website but I didn't learn a lot more there. It was, as you might imagine, entirely in Chinese.

Chrome has the handy built-in Google Translate feature that purports to render any website in a language of your choosing so I swapped out of Firefox but that didn't help as much as I'd hoped. I think the Big Brains at Google have a ways to go yet before they'll be slipping a babel fish in anyone's ear.

 Oh well. I had too many MMOs to play anyway. This one will have to remain a mystery, along with why a twelve-year old MMO suddenly lurched back to the top of the charts. There are some things we just aren't meant to know.

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