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망한 게임의 개발자들은 어떻게 될까: 게임 인간극장 [Life of a unsuccessful game developer]
Feb 13, 2019
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January this year,
There was a guy who was wanted to sell 268 Korean retro games all together.
The price was 100k $, around 330$ per title.
The seller was a CEO of a game company.
I've contacted him myself to hear out the story behind.
Screening Humanity A developer who failed for 20 years
Jang Se-yong, the CEO of a small gaming company named BITMAGE,
got a MSX as a present back in elementary school.
What is MSX you say?
It's not 'MicoroSoftXbox.'
It's a computer made in Japan in 1983.
You take out the gaming feature from this PC, make a console, and you get 'Zemmix'.
Anyway, with this PC Jang had played titles such as:
'Penguin Adventure', 'Gradius', 'Metal Gear'
and have grown into a decent game developer.
Say, ain't that all from KONAMI?
Of course, They are the best developers in the world FKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFKFK
There was a BBS called 'GamewDevClub' back in old Haitel era.
Mabinogi's Kim Dong-gun and Lee Eun-suk,
White Day's Lee Won-sul, Pangya's Seo Gwan-hee,
these 1st-gen game developers hanged out in this BBS back when they were in the university.
And the admin of this BBS was Kim Hak-gyu, the creator of Ragnarok.
Jang Se-yong, a high school student back then,
admired these people who posted smart and talented articles,
and had high hopes being one of them.
Thus the tragety begun.
He served the military as a programmer as an exceptional case agent.
Hired by Andamiro, the creator of 'Pump-it-up',
he developed a game called 'Merry Sports Day' -No reference available-
Everyone else was hyped about the World Cup
this 'agent', staying under a fan, plod through developing the game.
He was that passionate.
But the game failed.
After the military service, he wanted to start his own company.
But after getting in to a gaming company and glimpsing over the market,
this was somewhat like gambling.
It is a field where you can hit jackpot, but the chances are too low,
and the risk is too high when you don't succeed.
So, he leaned over to safety
and founded 'BITMAGE',
which specialize in game development outsourcing.
If you lean to 'safety', it's better to just work for a company, you know...
And thus the game, 'Lethal Filial Piety King' was born.
'Lethal'? 'Filial Piety'? What a kind son of a...
He survived by outsource developing various games,
but the things weren't going great.
Jang decided to go for a big adventure.
Outsourcing the IP of Korean animated film, 'Iron Kid',
and porting it into GBA title.
He took the intensive of the title, without any fixed payment.
5$ for each title sold.
It looks like nothing, but the main contractor was huge,
and they were planing to go global,
so there were some chances to hit the jackpot.
GBA was a big deal back then.
Yes, it was huge,
but it was unfamiliar to Korean developers.
No tips and no where to ask about.
But after months of nose-bleeding crunch,
he finally completed a decent game.
And how much he earned?
Why? Only 100 copies were sold.
GBA going out of season, global release being cancelled,
and the animation itself was not doing well in Korea.
Talk about Murphy's law.
He went for safest way till then,
and this was his first adventure,
the game was decent enough, but it failed.
An example of bad things coming in threes.
He outsourced the graphics to rush the dev time and for better quality,
and the cost was 13k$.
This is critical loss for a small company with 3 employees.
After listening about Blizzard, Tencent, 3N's multi million costs everyday,
you might wonder whether a company can go under trouble with that amount of money.
But in fact, that's us ordinary people's real life.
Oh, yeah. About that retro games.
We'll talk about it so just hang in there.
Former president MB said in a meeting:
"Kids recently have been playing Nintendo DS a lot."
"Why can't we make such thing?"
And it went on the news.
Well, these people don't know how we peasants live.
He might meant by something nice,
but it was so ridiculous, thus became a meme among gamers.
The incident could have been forgotten,
but 3 months later, a portable console named GP2X was released.
Nothing to do with MintenBo,
but this coincidence made the press go wild.
Of course, the government officials wouldn't just let it go.
There were a huge fuss, giving out development expenses and such.
Jang grabbed this chance,
and created "World Bumpercar Battle Rumble".
They've got experience,
and if more developers joined this current,
GP2X might become his chance to succeed.
With high hopes, Jang created various games such as: "Deicide3" and "Legend GodBlade".
But it failed again.
Did the game suck?
No need to even think about the game, the console itself went down so fast.
It was a rotten rope.
I've cut down much of the story,
but even Jang says that he is more in to safe path,
it doesn't seem that he goes for safe and guaranteed ways.
More like a wild survival expert, obsessed with off-road and outdoors.
Just take a look at the platforms he tried.
2G Mobile, PC, Online, Smartphones...
these are just basic things,
he goes over to Arcade, NDS, BGA, GP2X, XboX,
even PDA and ipTV as well.
Just saying, he might hold the record of a single developer
who released the game in most numerous platforms.
Let look at the genres.
Action, Sports, Billiards, Kids, Racing, Diet, Falling, Jumping,
Murder and Loyalty.
He is the 'Master of gaming industry' Has experience in everything.
Finally, Jang decided to end his platform vagabond.
He gathered all his energy, and this would be his game changer.
2015, the year when so-called 'Mass produced RPG' dominated the market,
He bulked-up his company of 4 to 15 employees,
borrowed 35 developers from the publisher,
and went for the biggest challenge of his 16 years of career.
It was "Soul Gauge": a mobile MMORPG which challenged itself to take the Japanese and Taiwanese market.
His younger brother who was in Nexon have joined in the end phase of development.
He quit, just to help out his bro.
When I was interviewing Jang through phone, email and text for days,
I was expecting a great story at this moment.
With his spectacle story of challenge,
the story of failure should be great as well.
Like: a puzzling fire breaks out
"Stop! You'll die in there!"
"No! I should save that external hard drive!"
"My whole life is in there! Let me go!"
This kind of movie like failure was what i expected,
but his answer was simple.
"The game was not fun."
This was a critical blow for Jang.
You bet high, loose more.
The one good thing about a small company
is that you can get 'Start-up Loans'.
As for BITMAGE, the company is in fact small, but it's too to get one of those loans.
He kept coming back just like Aatrox,
but this time, he is in trouble.
Remember that new character who appeared all of a sudden?
The brother who was in Nexon.
These brothers truly care each other.
He inherits his brothers 'dying wish'.
He sets up a company and buyouts Jang's employees.
To claim the one epic item which his brother couldn't get for 20 years
he sets up a party to conquer 'from the scrach'.
Jang is going solo in BITMAGE,
helping his brother's company by making game engines and fine tuning.
After the long beating against the wall, they are in front of the boss now.
The development is at end-phase.
But again, how unlucky they are.
There's a problem.
Before we go on,
If you were to name all the games in the world,
how many can you actually name?
Normally it would be less than 100, and hard core gamers qould go less than 1000.
But how many games are out there?
Let's just look at mobile.
According to the big data,
In all app stores including Google Play,
the number of games released is: 790,000.
The number of game released each month is more than 20000.
More than you think, right?
From this 20000 new games,
how many of them would reach top 50% of gameplay time?
There are bunch of unfamiliar games after top 10,
And 50%? There will be more of those.
But only 3 games per month in average can at least reach that 'unfamiliar' state.
From 20000 games.
Only a handful succeed and most of them just fail.
That's the cold-hearted reality of entertainment business.
But there's something even more cold.
Some games don't even get the chance to be released.
There are numerous challengers who couldn't even claim the name 'Failed',
simply vanishes with the name 'Cancelled'.
I have also have received sad resumes of game developers
who didn't have a single game released in his 10 year career.
Jang's brother's company, just before the release, the money ran out.
No where to get the money anymore.
Jang's 100k$ retro game collection was this.
The last item to sell to get his brother's game developed.
This was the desperate struggle to try out the raid boss before ending everything.
And to maintain at least some moral sense, he limited the buyer to companies.
Some, as well as me have though about this after the news:
"Isn't there Nexon's computer museum in Jeju?"
"Aren't they collecting a lot of retro games?"
"They can buy it! They have the money!"
So I've asked them.
"Nexon Computer Museum speaking."
"Hello, this is G-cyclopedia from YouTube..."
"Yes, I know."
"We have so much duplicates,"
"that's one of the reasons we can't decide just yet."
They are reviewing since there are duplicates.
Not a really hopeful atmosphere.
It's pitiful, but Nexon is not the one to blame at least for this matter.
Musem itself is for a good deed,
and can't blame them for not doing something more.
What was the first success of Kim Chan-wan who have failed for 17 years?
It was "PUBG" which updated 7 world records.
No one had high expectations, but achieved something that no one can ignore.
The red lotus seed blooms after 700 years of silence.
We support all nameless developers who are alone in their room,
tenaciously knocking on their seed to break it open.
And good luck to the Jang brothers.
Screening Humanity A story of a developer who failed for 20 years
You take the gaming feature from this PC, make a console, and you get 'Zemmix'
.ass (Substation Alpha)
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