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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

August 28, 2012 at 6:00 AM

“Guild Wars 2” goes live, hordes arrive in new online world

It took five years to finish “Guild Wars 2,” but it was time well spent for Bellevue’s ArenaNet, apparently.

The studio has been overwhelmed by the early response to its massively multiplayer online fantasy game, which officially launches today.

5 Female Centaur.jpg

More than 1 million early orders were placed for the game, which costs $60 to $150, depending on the version. That means it’s already grossed at least $60 million before the start of regular retail sales.

ArenaNet President Mike O’Brien said it’s thrilling and stressful to launch a game with 45 virtual worlds that will be inhabited by millions of players around the world.

O’Brien also is grateful that parent company NCsoft, a gaming giant based in Seoul, gave his 270-person Bellevue studio all the time it needed.

“As we see the sales it’s so far ahead of any forecast and the sales are just tremendous and they’re just continuing at a tremendous rate,” he said. “It’s obviously the right decision: Make sure the game is the game players are going to love before you release a game like this. You see it in the fan reaction; you see it in the sales.”

Early buyers were allowed to start playing at midnight Friday and they’ve come in hordes, flooding its data centers. The company has seen more than 400,000 concurrent players in the game, far more than it expected.

(Update, 5:40 p.m. Wednesday: The potential for the numbers to take an even bigger leap emerged when ArenaNet announced it had entered into a partnership with KongZhong, a Chinese digital entertainment company. Under an agreement between the two companies, KongZhong will bring “Guild Wars 2” to the mainland China online game market.)

The big response led to a few early glitches. The game’s trading post, where players can buy virtual items and list them for sale, was overwhelmed by the surge.

It’s practically unheard of — especially in an industry that’s struggling — but O’Brien already is thinking about whether the company will have to temporarily halt sales of the game at some point until the infrastructure catches up.

“If sales keep going through the roof and we get to a point where we would run out of capacity, we would certainly stop sales,” he said, adding that “we just want to be making the decisions that are right for the game in the long-term and not try to maximize sales this week, that kind of thing.”

Meanwhile, the company’s adding more and more servers at it data centers in the U.S. and Europe.

“Online worlds really are all about maintaining great worlds that people will keep loving year after year,” he explained. “We’re in this for the long-term. We’re going to protect user experience above everything and protect the worlds.”

ArenaNet was started in 2000 by O’Brien and other veterans of Blizzard Entertainment. The debut of their “Guild Wars” franchise was a hit, with the first edition selling 7 million copies.

Here are more screenshots of “Guild Wars 2”:

1 Black Citadel Charr Patrol.jpg

ArenaNet8 Ranger VS Centaur.jpg,

CharrGroup.jpg

Divinity Bridge.jpg

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