Big thank you to the Perfect World E3 team, and to Product Manager Jon Belliss for taking the time to answer our questions!
ZTGD Can you briefly explain the relationship of PWE to PW in China, and the PW game?
Perfect World Perfect World Co. Ltd. is our parent company and we work closely with them to publish games that we develop in China and bring them to the Western audience. Perfect World the game is the international version of China’s Perfect World II.
ZTGD You guys are prolific, can you talk a little about the latest titles from PWE?
Perfect World Definitely, our upcoming titles that we’ll be showing at E3 include Forsaken World, a graphically stunning, fantasy MMORPG, and Heroes of Three Kingdoms, based on one of history’s bloodiest battles. Forsaken World is also the first game for Perfect World that was built from the ground up with the Western audience in mind.
ZTGD What can gamers look forward to from you guys at E3?
Perfect World Gamers can look forward to seeing visually stunning, mouth-dropping games that will change the gaming industry’s perspective of what it means to be a free-to-play game. We are going all out at E3 and we’re showing that players don’t have to sacrifice quality with a free-to-play game.
ZTGD Forsaken World is the first of your games to be made for a Western audience from the ground up, what prompted that approach?
Perfect World We’ve always believed in publishing the highest quality games for players; this entails, amongst other things, taking into account the different gameplay styles and preferences from around the world. We know the huge impact proper localization can make with games like Perfect World International and Battle of the Immortals and the next natural progression for us is to build an MMO from the ground up for the Western audience. We’re dedicated to making a huge impact in the Western market and being huge in North America means being huge internationally as well.
ZTGD PWE is at the front of the free-to-play model in the West, what are the challenges?
Perfect World While the free-to-play model is the standard in Asia, it’s still a fairly new concept to Western players and many have been burnt by the poor quality of the first generation of free-to-play games. There’s definitely a negative stigma associated with free-to-play games and this has been one of our main objectives as to change the gaming industry’s perception of this business model. Free-to-play is often associated with cheap to make, which is the complete opposite when it comes to mammoth AAA titles like Forsaken World.
We want players to pay for what they like, not to pay to find out that a game isn’t for them. When you go to a movie theater, you pay up front without really knowing whether its good or not, or if you’re going to like it. We like to think of ourselves more like a theater were you’re able to watch and only pay if you enjoyed your experience.
We want players to see that subscription-based MMOs is similar to renting the same DVD over and over again versus a free-to-play MMO where if you really like it, you can buy it and watch it whenever you want. You’re not tied to having to play because you’ve already paid into a game.
ZTGD What do you guys do to stand out from the free-to-play crowd?
Perfect World It is the sheer quality of our games. We want to make our games the best, not just in the free-to-play MMO market, but in the whole MMO market. We have robust, full featured games with first class customer support and a thriving community. We aim to compete with the leading MMOs, but without the price tag for players.
ZTGD What do you think of Lord of the Rings Online going free-to-play?
Perfect World I think that it’s a great and supports what we’ve been advocating all along. Turbine has done a great job with bringing DDO to free-to-play and they are realizing the huge potential in the free-to-play model.
ZTGD PWE primarily localizes the games made in China, how do you choose which games will appeal to the American MMO market?
Perfect World We do extensive play testing of all the games that we decide to bring to the North American and Western market. We also see what our community wants and a huge example of this is Heroes of Three Kingdoms or Chibi (Red Cliff). There is a huge following for this game and the Three Kingdoms era and many of our players were clamoring that we bring this game here.
ZTGD Players in China approach games differently than in North America, what are the primary differences and which present the biggest localization challenges?
Perfect World One of the biggest cultural differences is the acceptance of grind. In Asia, adding grind to a game is even seen as a form of added content, while for the Western audience grind is often frowned upon. We definitely think about how our players will react to a game and for games like Battle of the Immortals, we removed the in-game bot and rewrote monster AI, so that players would have a stronger community and better game experience.
ZTGD In a game like Heroes of Three Kingdoms, which is rooted in Chinese culture and history, what is it like making the game accessible to a Western audience?
Perfect World I think that regardless of where you are from, this story has been retold countless time whether it’s the biblical story of David versus Goliath or the famous battle led by King Leonidas with 300 of his loyal Spartans. The story of Red Cliff is no less epic, if not at an even greater scale.
ZTGD How is PWE moving the MMORPG scene forward?
Perfect World Perfect World Entertainment is pushing the envelope of what it means to be a free-to-play MMORPG as well as making sure that players get as much value out of our games. By doing this, we hope to increase player expectations of what they should be getting out of their MMOs pay-to-play or not.
ZTGD PWE recently purchased a majority stake in Torchlight developer, Runic Games. How did the little indie that could first catch PWE’s publishing eye?
Perfect World Our parent company, Perfect World Co. Ltd., purchased a majority stake in Runic Games and while we can’t comment too much, we are really looking forward to working with them on their upcoming MMO based on Torchlight.
ZTGD I know a number of our users hear “PWE” and think “Torchlight”. This gets them excited for your latest games! How involved are you in the development of the Torchlight MMO?
Perfect World I’m glad to hear that! If players associate PWE with Torchlight, it means we’ve been doing our job, but it’s important to recognize the great job that Runic has done creating a universe that so many people are positively associated with. Without revealing too much, I can say that Runic Games will be leveraging our expertise in the MMO space to create a robust MMO based on Torchlight that everyone can look forward to.
ZTGD You originally signed on to publish Torchlight, the single player experience. Do you see PWE publishing more single player experiences?
Perfect World We are definitely open to the idea of publishing any kind of game, as long as it’s fun. Thanks so much for your time and we appreciate all of your readers!