Do you remember September 2012? That was the month when NCsoft and developer Team Bloodlust finally decided to reveal that the successful Korean martial arts MMORPG Blade & Soul was getting a release in North America and Europe. Western players who were following the game for months jumped with joy and began counting the days until the release.
… And we’re still counting them, while slowly losing the last bit of hope we had to actually play this game in our most desired version. In December 2012, NCsoft gave us our last update on the Blade & Soul official US website and since then, it’s pretty much complete silence. No new screens, not a single tidbit of info; the silence is deafening, and many players are already hoping for a cancelation notice, but just as it happens with Phantasy Star Online 2, we’re left wondering what’s actually going on with the alleged development.
And that’s what we’re going to do here: speculate about what may have gone wrong with the Western version of Blade & Soul, what factor – if not a few combined – lead to this limbo effect.
Some games have a shitton of text and localization isn’t an easy task at all – it requires a lot of hard work and attention to detail. While the term ‘localization’ is often mistaken for a simple, straightforward ‘translation’, usually there’s a lot more than simply adapting a game to other region’s language. It can include changing entire cutscenes, adding a lot of character customization options to reflect the region’s look and feel or even altering the user interface drastically.
However, most developers are used to this task and we’ve recently seen other heavy-hitter going through the process in record time – ArcheAge. Sure, this sandbox MMORPG had a lot of issues but they were related to the technical side of things, not to localization.
Finally, Blade & Soul was already localized to China, Taiwan and Russia, so it wouldn’t be an English version that would cause all the trouble.
We don’t believe that this was the main factor for the ‘disappearance’ of Blade and Soul.
How big is NCsoft, actually? Pretty big, we would say. This didn’t stop them from shutting down beloved superhero MMORPG City of Heroes, though. But with plenty of MMO games operating, some of them big names such as Wildstar (which isn’t doing too well, it seems), Aion, Guild Wars 2 or the still amazingly successful Lineage and Lineage 2, there’s plenty to keep everyone at the studio busy, even if some games aren’t directly developed by NCsoft.
There’s also a bunch of MMOs under development, such as the hybrid MOBA Master x Master, badass Transformers-like action game Project HON, and the highly anticipated Diablo-killer Lineage Eternal: Twilight Resistance.
But would all this get in the way of the release of a much desired game in North America and Europe? Couldn’t NCsoft allocate the staff to a project that, in theory, has everything to be very successful, including a very sexy art style that makes wonders with the young adult crowd?
We don’t think staff issues would be the reason to significantly delay the Western launch of Blade & Soul.
So, how big are you on martial arts? Do you think that is more of an Eastern kind of thing, with the Bruce Lees and Jackie Chans, and couldn’t care less about it? But while Blade & Soul’s main theme is martial arts, it’s far from your run-of-the-mill fighting game. The aesthetics are extremely original and the original anime look appeals to most players, even if they’re not fans of the genre. Add to this the fact that Blade & Soul wouldn’t be the first martial arts MMORPG to be released in the West, with names like Age of Wushu and Swordsman, to name just a few, getting some attention.
Even if the market isn’t particularly dying for martial arts MMOs, Blade & Soul has so much more going for it that the decision to hold the release just can’t be related to the theme of the game.
For all we know, NCsoft could have a strict schedule planning the release of all its games, particularly all the Blade & Soul versions besides the original Korean version: China, Japan, Taiwan and Russia. Maybe the studio jumped the gun and revealed the US and Europe versions a bit too soon and are now trying to get all the others out of the door first, for some reason. We’re just speculating, of course, but if this was actually the case, they could at least give an update for the millions of Western players who have been drooling all over the game’s videos for the last couple of years. Or just go the drastic way and tell us once and for all that the studio decided to cancel the game. We’ve heard somewhere that a puppy dies each day that goes by without a single update on Blade & Soul.
Every year it’s the same talk and 2015 is no exception: “Blade & Soul will launch this year”. But if we get no news on it during 2015 then we’re calling it quits. It’s been over two years since the last update on the official US site and eagerly players deserve to know what is going on. Maybe it’s a question of timing, maybe it’s a combination of several factors, but it’s just too long to be left in the dark for such a game. We’re willing to hold on for 2015 but we highly doubt that the hype surrounding the game will endure another entire year of a whole lot of nothing.
If you like Blade & Soul, you can always keep an eye out for similar Eastern MMO games such as Revelation, Moonlight Blade or Legend of Condor Heroes: Zero. Who knows, maybe these will actually get a release in the West… and a publisher that actually cares.