Open letter to NCSoft: Please allow Europeans to European servers of AION

To all Lithuanian folks visiting this blog: I’m sorry, but this one is in English. I just hope, that English will help me to spread the message further. Because I’m really sick of the situation we have here.

Let me briefly introduce the general situation in our gaming market first. Lithuania is small country in central Europe and a member of EU. Since it was occupied by Soviet Union quite some time ago, in most cases it’s still considered as an emerging market. As in any other European post-soviet country, we have the same gaming industry problems here. High piracy levels, laging distribution, slow sales, etc. On the other hand, gamers who choose to pay for games they like, are treated like they don’t exist. Since almost none of the major game publishers have interest in doing business here, we have no reliable support, no rights to participate in various contests and much higher prices then gamers from other EU countries. There are cases when fresh PS3 releases costs up to 100EUR in local retail, while monthly salary of 400EUR is considered as normal here. But to hell… If a game’s worth it, I’ll pay and I’ll be glad that I’ve managed to get it locally, few weeks after release, not on the day one of course. That’s why majority of gamers gets used to shop online. It’s much cheaper to buy games in UK for example. And they’re delivered faster.

We’re unhappy with this situation and yet we always believed that someday it’ll become better. Until now. At this point we know, that European release of AION won’t happen in Lithuania. Not a big deal. We can buy the game online. We also found out, that rights to distribute AION in Lithuania is given to some company „Innova Group“ which is a distributor of localized Russian version. Well that happens quite often. I mean, in most cases Russian publishers secure rights to distribute foreign games in Russia and in Commonwealth of Independent States (at least it’s what they state on product packaging), which was formed after the Soviet Union collapsed. Somehow, those agreements often cover Lithuania and Baltic States, though none of these countries is or was a part of CIS.

On the other hand, this often offered us a liberty to choose when purchasing games. Localized Russian versions rarely cost more than 20EUR here. The price difference is huge, but the language is a problem. I guess we had enough Russian speaking players 10 years ago, but today majority of gamers speaks English. Few months ago major distributor of Russian games in Lithuania simply disappeared. I believe it explains a lot, since expensive English versions slowly starts to dominate on retail shelves. The point is, that with launch of AION we loose even the liberty to choose. NCSoft stated that players with Lithuanian IP won’t be able to connect to a subscription based EU servers. Even if there is any logical reasons not to sell the game in Lithuania, I can’t understand why they are taking these extra measures? I wonder if such decision isn’t against the EU law, but even if it don’t, that’s a pure nonsense. Here’s some thoughts:

I know lots of players who play various English games even if they don’t speak English. They tend to learn commonly used words and terms, and that’s relatively easy for them since Lithuanian and English languages use Latin letters. We can understand those letters. Russians use Cyrillic letters. To a person who has no knowledge of a language, Russian looks like Arabic of Chinese or whatever. It’s just a series of symbols for them. And then, reading is only half of the problem, we’re talking about MMO, that includes typing as well. But the language isn’t the only barrier. I do expect troubles with payments, latency problems and such, since we’re not that integrated with Russia as it might seem to some people at NCSoft.

I read lot’s of gaming news online, and the questions of so called emerging markets is escalated from time to time. Not so long ago, EA Boss John Riccitiello, mentioned that piracy is more of a geographical problem, using our neighboring country Poland as an example. Well that’s absolutely correct, but I always question myself „Who should make the first steps?“. Since you know, we have a community. And we’re already buying seriously overpriced games that arrive months late, what else can we do?
The logical answer in this case would be „well… simply …. them, and use torrents“. And that’s what most of local gamers do. And that’s what will happen with AION. Because some people will have serious political reasons not to accept Russian version. Some people won’t like the localization, since there is very big chance that it will be screwed up (maybe even more than private EN servers). Most of the people simply won’t be able to understand the language. In this case, those who understand, speak and read Russian won’t be able to play with their friends who don’t. Since NC Soft threats to block Lithuanian users, there’s absolutely no reasons to pay for EU subscription even if someone will find a way to trick the system, because in any case it might get blocked or banned any day. Because of these measures official EU servers becomes pretty much the same, as the private ones, for us. And I believe private servers will surface soon enough. And it’s a shame. Because I personally have very negative point of view regarding piracy, though in most cases I can’t understand who’s the actual criminal. With each day, and each game or online service release it looks like the publishers are the one to blame.

NOW, NC SOFT PLEASE EXPLAIN US, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
Because this case is a perfect example of INCOMPETENCE. From a political point of view, this decision is foolish. Lithuanians and Russians (especially the younger ones) have some grudges, so various tensions is possible, and those will be moderated by the Russian side. From the business point of view, you’re simply loosing customers, loyalty and support of local community. You’re also forcing people to choose the game which is released on the language rarely used by your target consumer, eliminating their ability invite more players to join the world of AION. The fact, that Russian version is available is nice, someone will save money (since rumors has it, that the Russian version will be cheaper or even F2P), someone especially in their 30-ies will be happy since they know Russian better than English, but that’s minorities. I’m not against Russian version or it’s availability in Lithuania, I’m against the decision to block out Lithuanians willing to pay for European version. Please, give any reasons, why you should take away our rights to choose. Or maybe any reasons to disallow members of European Union on European servers?

Please, consider a simple option to allow us to pay and play on EN/EU servers. Honestly, this is the only one right option.

Komentarai

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