Korean software company EYA Interactive announced the upcoming "Grand Opening Beta" of its Free MMORPG called Titan Online, which is the English-language version of "Mo Siang," a martial arts-themed MMO based in China (both in story and server) and popular in Southeast Asia.
On April 28, Titan Online will open to the public in an unlimited beta, and will let users download and play the game until its commercial launch, which does not yet have a date. All players will begin the game at the same level to foster an environment of fair competition, and once the software has officially been launched, nothing on the player's end will change.
Since the game is based on traditional Chinese folklore, however, it faces a challenge when being brought into a different culture. Many highly nuanced games have faced brutal editing when being ported to a new language and culture for the sake of "audience appeal," which is frequently misunderstood.
One can't help but be reminded of Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a series of games based on one of the four major classical novels of Chinese history that has spawned more than 50 different versions, and has its own MMORPG that was released early last year called Sangokushi Online.
Of the vast number of versions of that particular game series, only a handful were released in English, and while not commercially unsuccessful, they are a deep, deep niche product.
However, Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games are themselves a niche product. For each player, there is essentially only one game. An empirical study of 20 MMO games published in Electronic Commerce Research last month found that the average MMORPG player commits 22 hours per week to a game, and will typically stick to playing only that game. So longevity for MMOs is not the problem, it's attracting the initial crowd to provide that long-term participation.
Making it free certainly helps these days, and Titan Online faces competition from Jagex Limited's Runescape, the most popular free MMORPG today. Runescape has a 6.3% market share of MMOs, and is the number four overall in terms of participants, behind World of Warcraft, Lineage II, and Lineage. More than half of those players, according to a 2006 survey, were based in the United States and Canada.