Money Grinding: Lineage Makes $1.8 Billion Over 15 Years

Shame it wasn't very good.

Lineage, the Korean fantasy MMO from NCSoft, is fifteen years old. In that time, it has made the equivalent of $1.8 billion. This as reported by PCGamesN reporting on Kotaku, as based on a press release that’s in Korean, anyway.

Numbers like this are why companies remain willing to make such large, long bets on MMOs. I talked to Jeremy Gaffney, former NCSoft executive and current executive producer on WildStar, about that earlier this year.

WildStar will be the first game from Carbine Studios, a development company founded in 2005. If you can’t do the maths, that’s eight years working on the tech and content for a single game. Gaffney previously helped design and ship Asheron’s Call, City of Heroes, Guild Wars, City of Villains, Auto Assault, and Lineage and Lineage 2 in the US.

Why is this worth the gamble? From a business perspective, it just seems mad.

Gaffney: How often in life are you going to be able to make a bet for tens of millions of dollars that, if it wins out, you’re going to make billions of doors. These games make billions of dollars. Look at what League of Legends doing. Roll the numbers on the math and people playing, there’s billions there. World of Warcraft has made billions. So that lure drives people in the space, but what that lure is, is an ocean that really raises the boats of those that want to make great games. Now what’s more fun than that?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s easier way to do it. Trying to coordinate a 300-person team to all get in line and in the same direction, and then take a multi-year bet, where that direction is going to pay off. That’s hard, that’s not done often, and it’s not surprising that most attempts at it fail. It’s very interesting I think, where the right place to be is to be a publisher on that front, where you have ten titles in development and if two of them hit, woohoo. It’s a horrible place to be as a developer. You only get so many creative years, so you better hope for some luck or for some skill or truly know what you’re doing. You only get to make so many games, and each one in the MMO space is a big gamble because they take 5-7 years. That’s why so few people have many MMOs on their track record.

Which I thought was pretty interesting, and which is all the more so when you look at the success of Lineage. It’s not a surprise that there was a goldrush towards MMOs. It’s almost a surprise that there aren’t more of them in development now.

Lineage’s US and European servers shut down in 2011, while Lineage 2 turned free-to-play the same year. A new game, Lineage Eternity, is currently in development.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be playing and interviewing the developers of WildStar this Wednesday. What do you want to know?


  1. Keymonk says:

    “you’re going to make billions of doors”

    Must be a huge mansion those big game developers got.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Yeah, I also want to make billions of doors! To even get close to that number I guess I’d first have to become Doorian Gray.

      • boundless08 says:

        Please no puns, I don’t want to be slammed with another pun thread.

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          But that’s the sole reason I created an account here for – the glorious pun threads.

          • says:

            Perhaps he had to Frame the pun differently? Didn’t you gate it?

        • jrodman says:

          You don’t like the pun jams?

    • Kollega says:

      Billions of doors? You mean the stars?

    • SuicideKing says:

      People are strange.

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      I thought there was only one Jim Morrison.

    • The Random One says:

      I’m not sure I’d want that many doors. Wouldn’t that make it way more likely that you’d pick a goat?

  2. Frank says:

    Wow. And I actually had to read the first sentence to be reminded what this game actually is.

  3. Freud says:

    Lineage is a terrible game and people who play it are strange and/or Korean.

    • CptPlanet says:

      Sorry to hear about your crippling terminal lack of taste.

  4. mrbeman says:

    My most pressing Wildstar questions:

    1. Is the entire world contiguous? Or is it separated into continents or zones with loading screens in-between?

    2. They’re going with a split between damage and support gear sets. What are they going to do about the perpetual MMO problem where DPS players have a trivially easy time doing day to day solo stuff, but healers and tanks have a miserable and agonizingly slow time of it?

    3. Is there going to be some kind of hit or accuracy stat that you have to bring up to an arbitrary point in order to connect with attacks against dungeon and raid bosses? If yes, why?

    4. If you’re going to try to make 40 person raids happen, how are you going to address the inevitable tension between relative loot rewards between different raid sizes, where some people prefer smaller raids but don’t like getting inferior gear compared to people raiding larger raids? Also the tension and drama with regards to which raid size is the most difficult?

    5. How customizable is the UI? Can elements be moved, removed, added, and resized? If not, why not?

    • mrbeman says:

      Ok, thanks! Refinements/clarifications, then:

      1. Assuming this answer is correct, this question can be dropped.

      2. This question stands unchanged. Changing abilities only goes so far if all your gear has “support” on it. I’m really hoping they have some kind of mechanism to make it tolerable to solo in your tank or healing gear.

      3. I’d like them to go into more depth about why they’re doing this – aren’t there better ways to make that differentiation?

      4. This makes drama, conflict, and tension unavoidable (and 20 to 40 person transitions are extremely difficult, usually resulting in a surplus of tanks + healers). I think they really need to talk through their reasoning in-depth here.

      5. This is good! Assuming this is an accurate answer, that question is handled.

      • Seiniyta says:

        for 1. I want to clarify some things. There is more then one continent and between the continents there’s as far as I know loading times (and offworld missions) but that’s not different then let’s say World of Warcraft where going from Kalmindor to Eastern Kingdoms also had a loading time. It’s still pretty expansive however. If you liked WoW’s openness you’ll like Wildstar’s.

      • Zelos says:

        3. There really isn’t. Hit(or similar stats) exist so that gear can scale longer. If hit didn’t exist, then the top gear would be far too powerful compared to base gear. By requiring more hit for raids than dungeons, and more for dungeons than normal quests, it allows gear to get progressively more powerful at what you’re doing without making too strong for previous content.

        It’s the same concept as a stat like “reduced/increased damage against raid monsters” except it’s not as obnoxious and doesn’t make the gear WEAKER than normal gear outside of that situation.

        4. Raids function like BC WoW. Karazhan was simply an “intro” to raiding that you did to gear and prepare for the real raids. Each raid only has one size and one difficulty.

        I don’t think the transition will be nearly as difficult as 10->25 man, and given how easy it is to switch abilities, I’d imagine(don’t know for certain) that everyone except the main tank and a few healers(whoever picked the lowest DPS healing class most likely) will be expected to have a DPS set.

    • Zelos says:

      As far as your #2 point is concerned, you can’t actually say that they’re all viable as DPS. You don’t know that, and honestly it’s unlikely to be the case.

      It’s a matter of balance, and it absolutely wasn’t true in the case of warriors before this current beta patch. It remains to be seen if they’re good enough to be used as DPS(they got a pretty huge buff), but endgame balancing is almost certainly going to be minimal pre-launch.

      External raid testing hasn’t started and isn’t likely to for a few months, so I would guess that for launch and probably a few months after that at least one of the classes will be terrible at DPS. Probably medic.

  5. Chongo says:

    I am really looking forward to this one (I’m even in the winter beta right now), can you ask them , no wait, TELL them not to pander to those who want everything epic and easy right away? When things present no challenge they are no fun. “You must risk something that matters” said Tom Waits the one time I asked him about MMO’s. And he’s right. If there is an end boss and you make 3 or 4 versions of him from easy to hard and the gear all looks the same that drops from him then well… JUST DON’T DO IT.

    • mrbeman says:

      I think this is a kind of juvenile oversimplification of raid difficulties.

      First, it’s an MMO: you’re never risking anything of any consequence. You won’t get injured or evicted or fired or killed if the raid wipes.

      The thrill for top-tier raiders is competing against each other, and different difficulties has no effect on that.

      Making expensive content for the consumption of less than 1% of your player base is foolish.

      Gear isn’t actually the primary motivator for lots of people; meeting and overcoming a challenge through teamwork with friends is.

      Raid size and difficulty is a huge, complex set of problems, and any solution is inherently subjective, so it’s not like there’s a single right answer. The best you can hope for its that the dev team is being careful and considered with whatever approach they’re using, without just dismissing the tradeoffs that they’re making.

  6. Ergates_Antius says:

    it has made the equivalent of $1.8 billion
    Is that profit or turnover?

  7. toxictrips says:

    Wildstar Questions!!!

    1. Can we get a guesstimate on a release date in 2014? (I know this is a stupid question but I am to excited about this game not to ask)
    2. Will there be (for lack of a better word) Heroic 40 man content? If not I’m sure enough that there content is that bad-ass but I am curious if there will be this content or planned content such as heroic raids.
    3. Can we get a brief description of the way loot will work in 20 and 40 man raids?
    4. Do you need a friend to play with? :) Joking. But seriously do you?
    5. I’ve heard from the dungeon designer there will only be 4 dungeons but also 6 adventure instances, will these adventure instances drop loot we could use at endgame. Trying to get a loose path of the gear we will be getting to get into 20 mans. Please answer this one if none of the others!
    6. Can Frost make us another sneak attack vine? :) please!!!
    7. Do you need a friend to play with? trololol that is all thanks so much for taking questions!
    8. Just tell them that thier badass and I can’t wait to give them my money!

  8. Aradalf says:

    Best tag: “imagine how much a good game could have made”

  9. MrEvilGuy says:

    “You only get so many creative years”


    And yikes, lineage was the first mmo I ever played

  10. Myrdinn says:

    The Lineage 1 beta was the first taste of MMO I ever got, probably because it (the beta) was free of charge. Never would’ve believed you if you told me it would go on to make $1,8 billion though – it seemed pretty niche at the time. I remember the server being a friendly, communicative place back then – much in contrast with your average MMO community nowadays. Anyhow, time has moved on and after experiencing a lot of other MMORPG’s I came to the conclusion that most games in the genre are simply single player games, played together with some other people. A few odd titles, like EVE go on to do stuff that isn’t possible in single player games, but they’re an exception. Does NCSoft has what it takes to break the norm?