Acclaim: Open for business with BOTS
Acclaim Games is back with new ownership, a new business model, and its first games--two free-to-play MMOGs from Asia.
What's in a name? Howard Marks and Ken Chan hope it's something valuable. The two execs are bringing back the Acclaim name (for better or worse), but make no mistake, the Acclaim brand today--apart from the name and logo--has very little to do with the previous incarnation.
The new company, based in Los Angeles, has a new business model, one that hopes to capitalize on a popular and profitable business strategy in Asia, albeit one that is unproven here.
Acclaim will operate localized versions of casual online games from Asia and tap an item-based pay model that will allow for free online play, with various incentives to purchase in-game items.
The company is soon to take a closed beta of its first game, BOTS, live and is currently soliciting gamers who would like to be included in the test.
Acclaim's second game, 9Dragons, is to be launched shortly, but no date is being discussed.
GameSpot spoke with BOTS brand manager Ken Chan over the weekend.
GameSpot: What's the agenda at the new Acclaim?
Ken Chan: Publish the best online multiplayer games and innovate with the business model through in-game ads, item sales, and subscriptions. All of our games will always be free to play.
GS: What's the business model behind your first game?
KC: We want players to be able to play our games for free. We think we can keep gamers happy and playing for free by relying on advertising and giving our players the option to buy items.
GS: Will BOTS be shrink-wrapped or only available via download? From the Acclaim site or others?
KC: At this time, BOTS will only be available for download at www.botsgame.com.
GS: What will the site contain?
KC: The BOTS site is a huge part of the game experience. For new players, it will be a great resource for info when they're just starting out. For newbies as well as the pros, the site will have a community area that players can use to look for groups, flaunt their rankings, trade/buy/sell items, show off screenshots--all the great things people do in community areas. Finally, the site will be where players find out about the exciting tournaments we have planned and/or other promotions.
GS: Do you think assuming the name of a company that went bankrupt and left many creditors unpaid in its wake will be a detriment to the new Acclaim?
KC: We believe that Acclaim is a fabulous brand, recognized by hundreds of millions of people. We receive hundreds of [pieces of] fan mail a day as a testimony to their commitment to this brand. The consumer is not that concerned as to what happened on the business side for Acclaim Entertainment. They really care about the games and how they feel about the Acclaim brand. Sometimes you need a total change to take the brand to a whole new level. This is what we are doing today.
GS: What's the head count at Acclaim now?
KC: We are a private company, and we do not disclose these kinds of details.
GS: What's the long-term goal in terms of the number of games or the kinds of games you will publish?
KC: Our goal is to publish a new free game every three months. The types of games we want to publish are MMORPGs and casual MOs (multiplayer online games). Right now we have BOTS, an action MO game, and we are also previewing 9Dragons, a martial arts MMORPG. We will be announcing more online games shortly.
GS: What sort of success has BOTS had in other markets?
KC: BOTS was very successful in Asia, and this is why we decided to publish this game for the US and European markets.
GS: What needs to be localized or modified for North America?
KC: It's essentially the same game with a bit of cleaning up to let the story and gameworld pop. Yup, in classic American style, we did give it a bit of an extreme makeover treatment. I promise the North American audience will find it easy to get, a lot of fun to play, and really rewarding...more on that later.
GS: What are your goals with the site going live?
KC: Right now, my goal is to sign up some great beta testers. But I'm not just looking for people to find bugs and get all the kinks out. I really want to have a dialogue with our testers and get a sense of what works and what doesn't. Is the gameplay right? How do you feel about the advertising? Are you having fun? We're exploring new territory here, and ultimately we want the players to decide what works for them.
GS: Thanks, Ken.
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