As you can probably tell by my side bar Prius Online Anima Redux was a game I played quite a bit of.this game. On March 25th, 2012 gPotato shut down their two North American servers for this game. They also shut down all of their Luna Online servers.
So why did Prius Online fail?
Story of Prius Online
Prius Online was being developed by CJI for their Netmarble distribution network.
Netmarble was quickly becoming a big player in free to play games. Netmarble had picked up Dungeon Fighter, one of the most popular MMOs in Asia and had acquired the license for Uncharted Waters Online from KOEI. These were two REALLY big games and they were doing well enough for CJI to make their own title.
CJI looked at the market and noted that women were an untapped demographic for MMOs. They also noted that women were more likely to play games with anime style characters.
So with this project in mind they went to work building this new and fantastic MMO. While other MMOs told stories that were “epic” their challenge was to craft a story that used other emotions.
In order to do this they came up with the Anima. This is a girl sidekick-pet that you would have tag along with you. This sidekick partner would also be the main plot point of the story as you are constantly brought though the emotional turmoil of reliving your life with the help of this girl.
To add in the “badass” look they added in Gigyas, a giant destructive force. They called this system the “3C” system or “3 characters” system. In this way you leveled up three different characters and fought in three different ways.
Another major design choice was to have a lot of cut scenes. This is something that is sort of new in MMOs. Blizzard did a nice bit of this with their Cataclysm expansion, SWTOR did this almost exclusively, and Age of Conan: Unchained was doing this a little bit. Even DC Universe Online had little info videos after every boss fight.
So yeah, having cut scenes is not something terrible developed and is just something recent.
All of the cut scenes had to embrace primary emotions, that is sadness, anger, and happiness.
This was set to launch on Netmarble and was going to be pretty big hit. But unfortunately CJI was having money problems while developing Prius Online and saw the immediate need to re-license titles from Netmarble over to gPotato.
gPotato is sort of a collection of anime style games. Some of them are very popular and some of them are alright. Most of the games from gPotato have strong quality but all of them use the Pay2Win item shop theme. This wards off a lot of players.
With the acquisition of Uncharted Waters Online they transformed it to a Pay2Win model by changing the way investments worked.
Puzzle Fighter was tossed off to the side.
With the acquisition of Prius Online they saw the need to make the experience as painful as possible, unless you used their item’s shop.
To be fair CJI also licensed this game to Wasabi which also used the exact same system… it’s just this system is more acceptable in Asia.
Prius Online Anima Redux launched in a pretty incomplete form and unfortunately did not call itself a beta to try and save itself like many free to play games do.
A game released with bugs happens quite often, especially in MMO world. There is a genuine hope that when a buggy MMO comes out that people will spend money on it and give them more developer dollars to keep it going.
That works when a developer releases a game to their own publisher… but not so well when you release it to another publisher.
So here is how the developer-publisher relationship works.
The publisher is responsible for making the game profitable and making money. To this extent the publisher sends orders to the developer to fix things.
Let’s look at Steam which publishes millions of titles.
Skyrim released with quite a few bugs and glitches. It still has tones of bugs and glitches and they will continue to come for all time. Every time there is a bug or a glitch in a product it is the responsibility of the person who sells it to you to report it to the maker or give a refund. If the fix cannot happen in a timely fashion the publisher must refund the customer.
So if Steam sends messages from consumers to Bethesda indicating specific bugs people are reporting and gets an ETA on when the fix for it will come. Bethesda will say they are working on it, this keeps Steam from having to refund.
If Bethesda states they will never fix it or have dropped support for the game then it is now the responsibility of Steam to refund any purchases that are under a grieved status.
So in this scenario gPotato, needing to make money has its currency (GP) which is used to purchase items. A portion of the sale of each item from the game is sent off to CJI and this is how they make money.
If people report glitches in the game they complain to gPotato. gPotato creates a list of recommendations and developments they need to keep the game running. If CJI cannot deliver on these gPotato drops support for the game and gets refunded on the license.
Prius Online was a game that was loaded full of problems. If you watch just one of my Prius Online videos:
What you will see is that nothing is even in English. In its place is a weird emotional based language using —…?><@#!@#$ and pretty much any non-linguistic button found on your keyboard. It is as if the people who were making the game held the shift key down and rolled their face on the keyboard.
On top of that the game had low quality graphics compared to released renderings and was devoid of quests. For about six months of its one year life the only way to level was by doing daily quests. Every single daily quest involved killing 10 of something.
CJI continued to make minor changes to the game to make it more profitable for gPotato, but unfortunately none of them were really substantial. The largest complaint was always that The Anima (the key point of the game) actually never did anything.
Unfortunately gPotato is always competing with itself. gPotato just released an expansion to Allods Online (from Astrum Nival), has Uncharted Waters Online (from KOEI), Aika Online (from Habitsoft), Flyff and Rappelz (from galaLab), and two more titles on the way.
All of these other publishers have proven the ability to put out timely updates, improvements, and offer support.
CJI on the other hand was just a lame duck. They simply did not have the money to keep running this project and could not or would not hire the staff to keep it going.
Compared to most games on gPotato this one was just not good at all.
Outside of the more technical corporate reasons there is another thing… people didn’t support the game.
Had the game been supported by the public the game would have survived despite the developer not supporting the game. Unfortunately, that just was not the case.
The main problem was the target audience for Prius Online Anima Redux, was faulty.
They attempted to attract women to the MMO world.
They chose The Anima which was a cute little girl who acted a lot like your child.
They chose anime style graphics.
They chose to market it as an “emotional MMO.”
They chose to make the game “deep” in lore.
All of these failed.
The thing that they were missing was an understanding of the female gamer demographic.
When looking at women who play games they generally choose games to be social. There are very few women who will play a game to be awesome at it.
This is one of the main reasons why women are far and few between in professional esports. The women who are in professional esports are generally not very good and are there largely for sponsors.
So what kind of games do women play?
Well, the most popular one women play is Farmville. This is because it offers things for women to do together. Another popular one is World of Warcraft. It is a game that is simple enough so that girls can tag along and involve themselves in raiding social activities.
Another common game type that women play are games in which they can attract men. Now this one is a little bit weird to talk about. But basically women will play games that are targeted towards men so that they can get attention from men. As well you will see a lot of “couples” pairings. Women won’t force men to play shit games they won’t enjoy instead women will suffer through games their boyfriends enjoy.
Now I won’t claim to be a master of the female mind but I also see that there is one another game women commonly play… turn based games. This is another weird genre that has become insanely popular in recent years. iPhone Words is one that comes to mind but these turn based games involve two players duking it out over long periods of time.
Unfortunately Prius Online Anima Redux just hit none of these levels. Instead what it gave us was a game fit for no one.
In the end girls will watch really sappy sad movies because this acts as a part of their personal fantasy. Raising a child is something most young women dread.
In the end the game could never succeed because it was designed to fail.
EDIT March 2, 2013: Post closing down the servers Netmarble announced that they would be re-launching the game as “Arcane Legacy.” Apparently the game did so well it was felt they needed to completely re-brand the game.