Massively Opinionated has an interview with Neowiz regarding the studio’s efforts to keep Bless Online viable in the West — which is even more imperative now that the Korean version will be shutting down in two months. That will make the Steam version of the game the only one available for anyone to play. It’s still not free-to-play, but it almost has to be someday, and Neowiz’s ability to implement that still has a ton of red flags attached to it.
In talking to Neowiz, MOP quotes an unnamed Neowiz representative on a number of questionable points — questionable, that is, to anyone not working at Neowiz. Regarding the game’s poor reception at its early access launch:
“In retrospect, we understand exactly why it’s hard for western users to digest that Bless Online is ‘Early Access’ when it had been launched in other regions previously.”
“Retrospect” shouldn’t have been required. Early access is no longer a new thing, and if you’re launching a game into it — and charging money for it — and thinking that players won’t expect something akin to a finished product, then you’re not very smart. That doesn’t even take into account Bless’ unusual history, as a game that was released previously in other regions into an ostensibly “finished” state.
It’s not just a matter of early disappointment, either, as the game still isn’t being well-received, four months after its early access launch. Recent reviews on Steam are an abysmal 16% positive, and the game is peaking at less than a thousand players per day.
Regarding the differences between Korean and Western players, particularly the approach to “pay-to-win” — something that Neowiz said was a primary reason the game wouldn’t be free-to-play:
“Players in Asia tend to be more accustomed to and have a larger tolerance towards P2W aspects; there is a certain level of understanding among players that those who pay will receive in-game benefits (directly, such as gaining extra experience).”
In the grand scheme of P2W, “gaining extra experience,” whether in the form of boosters or direct leveling bonuses, is pretty mild. If that’s what you’re charting as a line that cannot be crossed, you need to do more research.
In short, you’ll have to forgive us if we’re still not convinced that Neowiz will figure it all out when Bless launches and inevitably goes free-to-play (which might be at the same time). Whether that’s due to ignorance, stubbornness, or intentional deceit is unknown, but in any case, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.