We sat down and talked with Archer Wang about Game Pass and levelling the playing field.
Naraka: Bladepoint, the third-person action battle royale from 24 Entertainment, has been holding a solid spot among the most popular games on Steam ever since its release almost one year ago. However, as you may have seen during Xbox and Bethesda’s not-E3 presentation the game is breaking free of the PC platform and heading to Xbox consoles. And it's available day one on Game Pass, to boot.
To find out more about the decision to hop on over to Microsoft’s side of town, I sat down with marketing manager Archer Wang. We also discussed what the studio hopes to gain from dropping Naraka: Bladepoint on Game Pass, and how the team aims to balance the game now that they’ve got a whole new audience to worry about.You can watch the Xbox trailer for Naraka here.
VG247: So, Naraka: Bladepoint is coming to Xbox! Why bring it to Game Pass alongside a typical Xbox release?
Wang: First of all because Game Pass also includes PC players, so one of the main goals is to reach out to a broader audience. We definitely wanted to expand our community! With Game Pass, players can connect to a number of other players. From our side, we’re obviously delighted to bring in more players into Naraka.
VG247: Looking at Google Trends, Naraka seems to be primarily of interest to players in countries such as Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, and China. Is the game’s port to Game Pass an attempt to further break into Western Markets?
Wang: I’d say we’re hoping to increase the general size [of our playerbase] – we have a very strong community in North America and Europe. But yeah, one of our main goals is to use Game Pass to increase our community size in those countries that we already have a strong base in. At the same time we also believe that – since Game Pass is a very global membership program that can be used to everyone – it can really help us expand our reach in all territories across the globe.Don't let Phil Spencer see you looking like this.
VG247: Recently there have been discussions surrounding games releasing on Game Pass hampering profits for the developers – one such example includes Haven from The Game Bakers. Are you concerned at all about potentially losing out here?
Wang: Not at all! There’s a reason that we wanted to bring the game to the Game Pass. We’re nearing our one year anniversary for Naraka: Bladepoint, and we’ve done pretty good so far. So we think it’s going to be a long-term operation, and making choices that work towards that is a great decision in our eyes.
With Game Pass, we’re definitely going to bring in a larger audience, and that’s the most important thing for us. We can get feedback from them, we can expand our community, and that’s really all we care about right now.
VG247: And of course Naraka: Bladepoint is a live service game with microtransactions present, so money you don’t make off full purchases could trickle in with cosmetics and similar purchases right?
Wang: Yeah - that’s true! But aside from that, we definitely want to bring out new content on a regular basis. Basically the position we are in right now is one where we have a basic update go live every two or three weeks, so there will be new heroes, new cosmetics, new weapons etc. We’re also developing a new map, so there’s plenty for both us and the community to look forward to.
VG247: Is there any idea on when that new map would be set to release?
Wang: I’m going to say it’s a bit early to say since it’s still under production, but we’re definitely going to bring something new very soon.
VG247: We’ve seen games with both a PC and a console version have vastly different metas across platforms. Will the team balance both versions separately to react to this?
Wang: I’d say that the major difference between PC and console platforms will be play styles. For the game itself, we’re going to balance every simultaneously between PC and console, so there will be no difference in the content itself.
Actually, the controller support is one of the major concerns on our side. We did a lot of work to make sure players on console can enjoy the battle as much as if they were on PC – or even better!
VG247: Now that a degree of auto-aim and auto-lock will be implemented into Naraka, will future character and weapon design be affected in any way? Surely this makes abilities or weapons with a high skill requirement easier to use?
Wang: We did a lot of research. We looked into it every day, looking at a large number of other online games. We wanted to make sure there was no advantage to players on PC or console. The idea we’re sticking to is around 'unchained multiplayer combat'. Other than that, we’re just making sure everyone can enjoy Naraka through careful attention to balance.The hope is, if these two players are on different platforms, one won't have a significant advantage... Fingers crossed!
For example, we actually added a one-button counter – something that console players will be able to use also - to the PC version a few weeks ago. The reason we did that is to lower the learning curve and barriers to new players. We also did a lot of testing around that – since we wanted to think big picture and not alienate our high-end players.
Those high-end players, they showed us that a one-button counter didn’t affect them, since they were already able to pull off counters quickly and easily. The one-button counter was only useful for newer players, and didn’t take anything away from the experience.