NCsoft consolidates in the West

Korea-based MMOG publisher rebrands Western operations under one label; new focus to be on big-budget online games.


It turns out that the shake-up at NCsoft's Austin studio was just scratching the surface of the major changes in store for the South Korea-based massively multiplayer online game maker. After online reports earlier today that NCsoft would be shuttering its European operations, the publisher confirmed that it would be restructuring its entire US and European subsidiaries to operate under a single, unified label, tentatively titled NC West.

As part of the move, NC Interactive, NC Europe, NC Austin, and ArenaNet will now all fall under the NC West label, which will focus on creating MMOGs for the Western market. NCsoft expects to announce a final name for its Western-focused subsidiary in the near future. Although NCsoft's US hub NC Interactive had previously been based in Austin, Texas, the publisher said today that NC West will be headquartered in Seattle, Washington.

Past and present ArenaNet brass will be well represented in NC West's executive ranks. Former ArenaNet studio manager Chris Chung, who oversaw the development of the developer's Guild Wars franchise and went on to manage global publishing at NCsoft's Seoul headquarters, has been named CEO of NC West. ArenaNet cofounders Jeff Strain and Patrick Wyatt will reprise their roles at the newly labeled subsidiary as president of product development and chief technical officer, respectively. David Reid, who joined NCsoft in March, will assume the role of president of publishing at NC West.

In an interview with Kotaku, Reid laid out the rationale behind NCsoft restructuring its Western operations, saying that it was geared toward refocusing the company on big-budget MMOGs. "This transition is really about ratifying a completely dedicated business to the triple-A titles," said Reid. "We would consider ourselves in the class of five-ish companies in the world that can be successful in this market. We are a leader here and we are doubling down in those efforts."

Part of those efforts, Reid noted, relate to NCsoft moving away from casual MMOG development. In August, the publisher said that the 21 positions eliminated at its Austin studio related to the free-to-play, ad-supported Dungeon Runners, as well as products that "we have not previously announced and were in prototype phases." Another factor for its consolidation is the publisher's focus on the console space. Last year, the publisher announced that it had entered into a partnership with Sony to develop online games for the PlayStation 3.

Reid said that an additional 12 positions have been eliminated at the publisher's Austin studio as a result of the consolidation, and an NCsoft representative confirmed for GameSpot that 58 positions "have been identified as potentially redundant" at the publisher's UK office. "Most of those positions are from the product-development organization there," the NCsoft rep commented.

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