Nexon America has announced that its inaugural MMO, MapleStory, has hit over three million registered users in North America. The game, developed by Wizet, is a side-scrolling action title that makes money for the company through microtransactions. It’s also proof that your game doesn’t have to be called World of Warcraft or Second Life to be an MMO success.
MapleStory is already a global phenomenon; John H. Chi, chief executive officer of Nexon America, claims that there are nearly 60 million registered users worldwide. Keep in mind that the game has been released in numerous territories since 2002 and only hit North America in November 2006.
While MapleStory is free to play and no subscription is required, Nexon America makes money through numerous microtransactions. Players can buy a large variety of goods to customize their characters’ appearance and performance, and can purchase general game enhancements as well. According to Business Week, North American players spent $1.6 million on 600,000 virtual products within MapleStory during February 2006.
Nexon also has a powerful partner in retail giant Target. Players of MapleStory and Audition (Nexon’s dance MMO) can purchase these cards at Target stores to redeem in the game’s worlds. The cards, which have been available since January 2007, come in $10 and $25 increments.
The company’s announcement is good news for the MMO market. It illustrates that if you can find a unique niche, it’s possible to be a success in a field that’s dominated by two or three games. It also shows that you don’t need to spend millions in development to attract millions of users; MapleStory is a technologically modest game with 2D graphics and no voice chat, but if three million people are giving it a shot and millions of dollars are being spent on add-ons, Nexon clearly has something its customers like.