Gunning for online players, Nexon launches novel shooter game


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What pops in your mind when you think of free online games? Cute penguins? Scrabulous? Bejeweled?

How about a full-on first-person shooter? Nexon, the Korean company that has 5.9 million registered users playing its free online games, has launched Combat Arms, a game in the same vein as Counterstrike or Halo. Unlike these other shooters, Combat Arms doesn’t cost anything. Teams of up to 16 players can join game sessions that last anywhere from a couple of minutes to about 15 minutes (it doesn’t take long to get picked off by foes).


How does Nexon, which has U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, propose to make money? The company makes about 85% of its revenue by selling glam outfits, colored contact lenses for characters and other virtual items that can be used in its online games, which include MapleStory, Mabinogi and Audition (the remainder of its revenue comes mostly from advertising). To pay for these items, which cost anywhere from 30 cents to $25, players buy prepaid cards at stores such as Target, where Nexon cards are the second best-selling gift card after those for Apple’s iTunes store.

Somehow, we just couldn’t picture players of a hard-core shooting game buying pink feather boas for their characters, no matter how well they might match the camouflage fatigues. The other option -- buying weapons and other items to give players an advantage in game play -- is also a no-no. If there’s anything serious players insist on, it’s that everyone earn their stripes, not buy them. So the developers at Nexon came up with cool sunglasses, fancy ‘skins’ to make their weapons look deadlier and outrageous effects. The business model isn’t fully deployed, yet. So for now there’s nothing to buy on the site. But there will be, said Min Kim, Nexon’s vice president of marketing in the U.S.

‘If you think about the car culture, some guys love to mod their cars and make them look cool,’ Kim said.

One idea, said Kim: Instead of smoke and fire that comes from exploding a grenade, your enemies could be smacked with a cloud of Hello Kitties. Now that’s something we might even pay to see.

-- Alex Pham

Screenshot of Combat Arms courtesy of Nexon