NCsoft: Austin Office Will Expand

NCsoft: Austin Office Will Expand

Following NCsoft’s decision to move key North American and European operations to Seattle, speculation has run rampant about the fate of the former headquarters in Austin, Tex.

But David Reid, the president of publishing at Seattle’s new NC West, says the 250-person Austin location will actually grow as new projects are introduced.

“The Austin office has been the subject of some speculation which is erroneous,” Reid told Edge in a Wednesday phone interview. “Austin continues to be a critically important space for NCsoft. The Tabula Rasa team is still there, along with customer service and QA.”

He continued, “We do expect this office to grow, particularly as we think about launching Aion next year and some efforts we have not announced on behalf of some of our other franchises.

“We really do believe that Austin is going to grow at a fairly dramatic pace over the next few years to support those products.”

Austin is currently home to NCsoft customer support, quality assurance and the Tabula Rasa development team. “The [Tabula Rasa] team is intact, there are no changes there,” he said.

Reid said NCsoft is in the midst of a promotional campaign for the MMORPG. As part of the blitz, Richard Garriott, creator of Tabula Rasa and the revered Ultima series, is slated to be a guest on the Colbert Report this week, appearing remotely from Star City, Russia, as he trains to go into outer space.

Asked about subscription numbers for Tabula Rasa, Reid said the firm does not disclose subscription such figures for any of its titles. He suggested the game is still going strong, despite rumors of its demise.

NCsoft was recently hit by layoffs as the South Korea-based MMO maker restructured Western operations. Twelve employees were laid off at Austin last week, while around 50 reportedly faced canning in Brighton, U.K.

But Reid denied any extensive inner turmoil at the company, instead painting a picture of a publisher that’s about to hit its stride in the West.

“We are moving up in the big leagues. We’ve been successful, but we have our eyes on much bigger prizes.”

He said that Guild Wars, developed by internal studio ArenaNet, is “closing in” on six million in sales, while City of Heroes is in its fifth year as a subscription-based business.

With the MMO market grows intensely competitive with titles such as World of Warcraft, Eve Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan and the upcoming Warhammer Online, Reid doesn’t want NCsoft’s accomplishments to be lost in the shuffle.

“People forget that the second and third biggest MMOs in the world are Lineage II and Lineage,” he said, referring to NCsoft’s Asia-centric hits. “Those both have seven-figure subscription numbers and are $100 million-plus businesses.”

But the West is a different market from North America and Europe. Does NCsoft feel like it has come up relatively short on the Western front? “Any company [in the West] would be hard-pressed to say that they’ve had the same success [as we’ve had in Asia]. … I wouldn’t say by any means that it’s been a challenge in the West. We’ve done great.

“… The primary thing people need to take from this establishment of NC West is a very clear ratification that NCsoft is going all-out on this large-scale, big-bet, triple-A MMO business.”

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