Snail Games USA: The Inside Story
By Vincent Haoson, OnRPG Journalist
Snail Games USA (SG USA), the US branch of China based game developer Snail Games has officially opened its office in Playa del Rey, Los Angeles. We were given a chance to have a chat with CEO Scott Miller (no he’s not the Scott Miller of 3D Realms, the developers of Duke Nukem Forever mind you) who was more than willing to share not only the lowdown on Snail Games USA, but I was able to get him to spill a little something about himself as well.
Snail Game USA’s Role
I was able to ask Miller about the primary function of the company aside from releasing games for the North America and Latin America audience as stated from their site. He said that the company is also helping out in directing the westernization of the products (the games). All the games SG USA will be releasing have the domestic Chinese in mind because the games come from the parent company in China.
“Sometimes it’s as simple (westernization) changing the speed of how fast the heroes run on Heroes of Gaia for example,” says, Miller.
The company is also handling the business and licensing of the games they have. One example of the game they’re handling is Heroes of Gaia, which is being licensed through multiple partners. They also handle the marketing and community management of their games.
“Marketing in China is significantly different than over here in the west. Over there they have a kind of an AOL model. Over there people don’t go to news sites, they go to the providers for their game information” shares, Miller. “So they don’t have the same marketing presence or press presence that we have here” he continues.
The Difficulty of Westernization
After hearing that SG USA is also handling the westernization of the Chinese games, I asked about the difficulty of the tasks they have in this process. We all know that there are in fact differences in the eastern and western cultures so I assumed that this was a hard issue for the people at SG USA.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a walk in the park, but at the same time Snail China is extremely supportive in our efforts to westernize. They are very committed to a worldwide presence, they recently opened their office at Russia, and they have partners in pretty much in every country worldwide who they have been licensing games to for many years,” according to Miller.
The new offices of Snail Games
He adds, “It’s always a challenge when you have competing interest because they have to decide where the resources go, because there’s only so many hours in a day and so many people. Even Snail China has a staff of over a thousand and that means they have a lot of stuff going on. It’s not something that you can just snap your fingers and have a westernized version of a game in a day or two. It takes a significant amount of time and effort.”
Miller’s actual experience in handling a game in terms of westernizing is Heroes of Gaia, which was launched a week or two after he started working in SG USA. However, due to the timing, he had a limited influence on how the game was westernized.
“For Heroes of Gaia, we had been giving suggestions and slowly transitioning from being run in China to sort of being run in the US as a partnership between China and US. We’re hoping that our next game (Ministry of War) will have a little bit better chance in the westernization of the game,” shares Miller.
I asked about the problems in terms of other companies also providing games SG USA has. For example, GPotato and Kongregate have their own versions of the game Heroes of Gaia. I wondered if it would be conflicting with SG USA.
“In some ways yes and in some ways no, this is how the model is done in China. In some ways that can cause some issues when players can’t find where their friends are playing on what particular server. In time though, when you add additional publishers, you add large communities” answers Miller,
“We wouldn’t get that community if we were to run it ourselves, so licensing has to be done in a balanced way, so you don’t compete too much on the open market, but you can get people playing the game. We’re actively looking at how and where we do licensing and making sure that it actually works in the US” he adds.
Games and plans for the company’s future
Snail Games USA currently has Heroes of Gaia, which has recently had a content update. They will also be releasing Ministry of War that’s in closed beta and will start by May. The beta test will start as an invite only CBT then through beta key giveaways and contests.
Ministry of War is a client-based MMORTS game that has some elements of Heroes of Gaia infused to it. It has four person combat so you can control units on a larger map and four different people can go in on different scenarios.
Other games that SG USA will be releasing within the year are Throne of Fire, a niche- story book PvP kind of game. There has been little info about the game because the company is still keeping things under wraps. They’re also going to release a martial arts themed game titled Wu Shu, the game has been under development for four years now and the team grew from 200 developers to 300 and Miller promises that it’s not a typical martial arts game.
Brand new office
Currently, SG USA has fact a few games out such as the robot-themed game, Age of Armor, rhythm and dance game, 5street, the pirate themed game, Voyage of Century which are all licensed under third party partners but are being run in their office.
During the interview, I was able to poke around the office at SG USA. Miller told me that the company had a specific motto because the people in SG USA were plainly having fun. The office scenario wasn’t stifling and serious and the people in SG USA can just go nuts and have fun (totally different from the company I used to work for, game operations company here in the country).
He jokingly shared a story that chronicled how the office “zombie” theme came out. Yes, I’m not kidding, SG USA has in fact incorporated the zombie apocalypse theme in the office. Their first-aid kit even had a zombie survival guide. Even without a specific motto SG USA seems to be working well without it.