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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?

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Graham Smith

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