Huxley Dystopia Game Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter MMOFPS

Huxley Interview With WEBZEN America: Cindy Armstrong

One of the booths that caught everyone's attention this year at E3 was that of WEBZEN. The Korean-based online entertainment company has recently hit North America with its full arsenal, establishing a new unit in the United States. For that venture, Cindy Armstrong was recently named as the Chief Executive Officer for the North American unit.

Ms. Armstrong brings more than 15 years of online entertainment experience to WEBZEN America, having worked previously on Sony Online Entertainment, Nintendo of America and Activision, among other companies.

During this year's show, we had the chance to interview Ms. Armstrong to talk about WEBZEN's plans for the near future and discuss the current state of the industry.

Cindy Armstrong

First, congratulations on your recent appointment. Elaborate on your duties at WEBZEN America and what the near future holds.

Cindy Armstrong: My focus is to build a top tier online publishing company, so that's kind of a long term goal, and I think immediate and short-term is launching distinctive products, such as the ones currently on the show floor. SUN, Soul of the Ultimate Nation and then Huxley on PC and Xbox 360 we are very excited about. We are looking into what we can do with Project Wiki, which is a very interesting, very, very diverse product that will appeal to different audiences. I think it's a great way to launch WEBZEN America.

We know you're not new to the video game industry and the world of online entertainment. Can you please talk a little bit about your positions, prior to joining WEBZEN America?

Cindy Armstrong: I started in the industry years ago with Mediagenic, that was actually Activision, in finance and got interested in international and worked with companies like Nintendo and Sony Online. I received a lot of experience with consoles, PC, as well as international and domestics - so it's kind of a broad range. I think I really fell in love with the whole video game industry when I was in Europe working with NES International and was involved with several mini product launches. Then I came back into the online space, which is, I think, where the future is.

As a woman in a predominately male industry, how do you feel about the ratio of men to women, both at the consumer and corporate levels?

Cindy Armstrong: At the corporate level, you definitely don't see many (women). I think knowing the industry helps tremendously. I'm often underestimated because people don’t know how to react or they more familiar with things being a boys club and I try to use that to my advantage. Obviously it's about building a team and people around you, so it's the team that pulls together. It's not about individuals, necessarily.

As to consumer market, I think it’s the untapped market. It’s a matter of finding the right content for women, but they will adapt to it. It will all be about how we market these games, how we approach women by finding games that are right for them. There is huge potential for sure.

As someone who has worked for both Nintendo and Sony, what are your thoughts on Microsoft’s strategy for their online service.

Cindy Armstrong: I think Microsoft is ahead of the group with their online strategy, and since our company is online, we believe it is evident in our support for the platform. We've invested a lot of money developing games knowing that Microsof's Xbox Live will be able to deliver and we have a platform to leverage. Otherwise, we wouldn't be doing this.

Although games like Everquest, City of Heroes, Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, just to name a few, turned out to be successful, it wasn't until World of WarCraft that a massively multiplayer game reached such a level of popularity and commercial success. What do you think is the reason for the success of WoW and what are the lessons learned?

Cindy Armstrong: I think it is a fantastic game. Well developed, created by a known group and a known franchise. They had that benefit. The future is going to use components of online and I think it's developing those properties that do appeal massively. Everquest, Ultima Online, again successes, but in a very niche market. How many people have played Blizzard's games in their lives? And I think that is one the keys to have people that would have never considered playing an MMO before, to show interest. I think that in the future you're going to find games that are unappealing to fans of MMO RPG, but a FPS like Huxley, people that didn't normally play an MMO will now pick it up because they want to see rewards in the persistency of the world, have features like character saves, leveling up and things that they didn't have before, so it's giving them something to premiere with and adding extending capabilities.

As a publisher, how does it feel to have the creator of GTA and Lemmings doing a game for you (All Points Bulletin)?

Cindy Armstrong: We are very, very thrilled to be working with David Jones. We're looking forward to see what they can come up with in APB. We are at a point where we are not discussing that much. Overall, it's a thrill; we are very anxious and I'm sure you'll be hearing more about it in the near future.

Do you think Huxley will be WEBZEN's secret weapon to break into the western market?

Cindy Armstrong: First of all, we have developed WEBZEN Inc. America as an American company. We are getting support from WEBZEN Korea, by hiring people that know the market, and by bringing the products to the States. To give a direct answer to your question - yes, I think Huxley is developed from the ground up with the U.S. as the primary market, the western Europe also, and I think it is going to be a great entry way being able to launch with Xbox 360. It's something people are very excited about, internally as well as externally.

Finally, can you reveal anything about WEBZEN’s plans for this year, next year?

Cindy Armstrong: Yes, the immediate plan is to launch Soul of the Ultimate Nation in the first half of next year. Shortly thereafter, before the end of the year, Huxley will launch. We are anxious to do some focus on Project Wiki because I think there's potential for that more casual gamer. It's a game that has lot more depth than it looks like on the surface; easy to get into, etc. It has more of an anime style, but I think there's a very good market for that also.

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