After a tentative start on Facebook that includes MapleStory Adventures, Zombie Misfits and Wonder Cruise, Korean free-to-play giant Nexon is ready to launch its popular KartRider franchise on the platform.
KartRider is an online multiplayer racing game that has racked up over 270 million registered since its 2004 launch. Players control a single kart and can race against human and computer controlled opponents in various gameplay modes. Nexon Mobile released an iOS version last year that topped 1 million downloads in a little over a week; the company reports that the game is now at over 6.7 million downloads. The Facebook version, KartRider Dash, is due out in March.
Nexon has taken its time finding footing on Facebook. Aside from launching MapleStory Adventures in 2011, the Korean publisher experimented with different ways to engage with the platform throughout the last year — including investing in developers A Bit Lucky and 6waves Lolapps and co-developing or publishing new IP for the platform. Results have been mixed with MapleStory Adventures performing well while Zombie Misfits struggled to find an audience and Wonder Cruise has yet to really set sail. Speaking to Inside Social Games, Nexon EVP of Social Games Aron Koh acknowledges the learning curve — but says “we can do better than what we’re doing now.”
“We’re still learning how to approach players on Facebook and [other] platforms besides our core PC business,” Koh says. “It’s been challenging. It’s not easy to push out multiple updates to get the metrics up. But we’re very conservative when it comes to acquiring new users. We spent very, very little on [MapleStory Adventures] and we could see that the IP was popular and that was the main factor in acquiring users. It was a very good experience and we’re very happy with how our original IP translated to the platform.”
Aside from the appeal of the franchise itself, KartRider has a shot at defining the racing genre on Facebook. Leading car game Car Town only has a nominal, asynchronous racing game; Title Town Racing never made it big; and BMW xDrive Challenge is an advergame first and a racing game second. At one point, it looked like EA might bring its Need for Speed franchise back to Facebook (in fact, it still might); but so far, there isn’t one racing game that’s made it big on the platform. Meanwhile, over on Google+, mobile developer Gameloft proves that a rich 3D racing experience is not only possible on a social network, it’s probably a good way for a developer to distinguish itself from all the citybuilders and the puzzle games.
“One thing I’m very interested to see from our own [studio] and from other companies is more synchronous games on Facebook,” Koh says. “There a couple of synchronous games out there, but it’s very limited. As a company we’re interested to see more players jumping into that arena.”
Nexon raised $1.17 billion in its initial public offering late last year.