Ragnarök Online Q&A With Yves Blehaut
Who are you and what’s your role within Gravity?
After having spent more than 25 years in the videogame industry at Infogrames/Atari, I have joined Gravity Europe as CEO and co-shareholder along with Media Participations and Gravity Co. Ltd since August 1st 2011.
Ragnarök Online is a huge, free-to-play MMORPG success story with over 55 million players worldwide.
For readers who aren’t familiar with the game, can you give us a brief introduction to the title and its features?
Ragnarök Online could be described as the undisputed model of the MMO RPG genre. Created in the early 2000 , it merely introduced all the major features that would be considered as must-haves in today’s online games. Be it character customization, monster hunting or social features, Ragnarök Online is the iconic game that left a mark in every MMOG player’s mind back then.
The player begins his journey as a novice, acquires new skills through battles and quests, fighting alongside with other players. He will then be able to change into a large variety of jobs, such as wizard, priest, thief, hunter, etc… in order to face the most dreadful monsters in their lair! I have always been amazed by those Asian-style graphics: they give the game some classic, instantly lovable design, which never gets old.
Ragnarök Online’s receiving the biggest update in its history. What can players expect from this and how does it alter the game itself?
It’s more than a simple update: it’s a revival! Not only does the patch bring new content such as 13 brand new job classes, each one with its own set of skills and spells, and raises the level limit, but it also shakes all the systems up and gives the game a second life! Ragnarök Renewal revamps most of damage calculations to bring more diversity to the gameplay styles and more room for customization. There is also a special area for beginners to help them through the first hours of their adventure. Long story short, the game just got easier for newcomers and harder for veterans. And there is so much more coming with the update that I cannot remember everything!
The Ragnarök universe expanded its way to the iOS platform with Ragnarök Violet and Angel Poring. What was your reasoning for pushing into new hardware territories and can we expect to see more Gravity titles making their way to the AppStore? Is there any possibility of Ragnarök Online actually making a transition into the handheld & tablet realm?
It seems obvious that the mobile platforms are getting more and more important as we speak, doesn’t it? The audience has moved, or at least they no longer play on a single platform: they want to play wherever they want, whenever they want. And while the current technology may not have been quite enough to bring the actual Ragnarök Online game on tablet yet, we felt it was something we had to do: offering our fans new ways to play, new entry points to the universe, with different stories and experiences. That’s what we did with Ragnarök Violet and Angel Poring. We definitely have plans for other titles – and for Android as well – I am really excited about it!
With free-to-play titles encompassing a larger percentage of players than retail, how do you foresee the future of the home consoles and their AAA titles?
As Consoles become more and more open through their online features, we will see those devices hosting coming from very different universes than the traditional AAA videogame one. Console manufacturers already offer creative business models to sustain this new breed of games and this is just the beginning.
As for the AAA games, most of the videogame publishers have instilled online features, downloadable content that change already the historical business model.
This diversification of both devices and games will –thanks to the generalization of the high speed bandwidth- accelerate the dematerialization of AAA games without killing the traditional sales network. At the end of the day, this is another way to buy and play games and the only question we can ask ourselves is the financial impact on development of AAA games which may make them more expensive to make and harder to service.