Before we comment on The9‘s latest move to up the ante in its rivalry with Tencent, let me first point out that The9 and Tencent, although both based in China and both online games developers and publishers, are two different entities. Q Coin, on the other hand, is the item mall currency of Tencent for its side-scrolling massively multiplayer online game Dungeon & Fighter.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s analyze this bit of news I found on JLM Pacific Epoch:
The9 will start open beta testing of its in-house developed Three Kingdoms-themed side-scrolling fighting casual game World of Fight on January 8, 2010, the company announced December 30th. In the statement, The9 identified Tencent’s licensed side-scrolling casual game Dungeon & Fighter as its biggest “concern” and said it has a total of 200 million of Q Coins (Tencent’s virtual currency, 1 Q Coin = RMB 1) to give away to DNF gamers who join the World of Fight open beta. The9 said it will give DNF gamers who are not satisfied with World of Fight 20 Q coins, and will give virtual item packages worth RMB 50 to DNF gamers who remain in World of Fight.
If you don’t find anything wrong with The9′s tactics, then you’re probably in the morally gray. It’s dirty and dastardly, but may end up backfiring on the Chinese online gaming giant.
How, you ask? It’s simple, really. Tencent’s Dungeon & Fighter has registered a total of 2.2 million peak concurrent users in late November 2009. Let’s say a million DNF gamers decide to jump ship temporarily to join the beta testing of World of Fight, then less than a week later call it quits and calls The9 on its offer. That’s easily a million Q Coins in payout. Yes, The9 reportedly has 200 million Q Coins, but what good is the virtual currency to the company?
Of course, the situation can play out to The9′s advantage, with the million gamers turning to and embracing the “dark side” and taking their RMB 50 (around USD 7.30) in rewards. But what’s stopping this million or so players from taking both the Q Coin and World of Fight virtual item package?
More than a year ago, Atlantica Online burst into the international scene with an offer most online gamers just can’t refuse. NDOORS Interactive vowed to buy back characters in United States dollars should players find the game not to their liking. Their gamble paid off. The game is now one of the most successful free-to-play titles in the world.
Now, The9 is taking an almost similar tactic. The only difference is that The9′s gamble is not only risky, it also aims to hurt a competitor’s title by taking away its player base.
Here’s a piece of unsolicited advice for The9: “Karma is a dangerous enemy.”