Top 5 Region-Exclusive Free Online Games

Don’t you just hate it when there’s this new game announcement that is the stuff your dreams are made of, you’re already counting the days for the game to launch and then you actually read the entire news… And BAAM! You’re screwed; you actually don’t live even close to the place where the game is going to release. What the hell? Dreams crushed, all hope is lost, you curl into a corner and cry for a week.

We’ve been there before, don’t worry. Game publishing deals work in mysterious ways and there are big bucks in exclusivity. That’s why in the last few years alone we’ve seen a bunch of high-profile games being announced exclusively for unexpected regions, leaving many millions of players out of the equation and incidentally, many millions of dollars out of the developers’ pockets. But it’s their choice, so now they’ll have to live with it.

In this top we won’t mention games that were announced for the west but for some weird reason still haven’t launched in North America or Europe – yes, we’re looking at you, Blade & Soul and Phantasy Star Online 2. This is just a top 5 for those games that would definitely benefit from a global launch, but that isn’t likely to be the case.

Try not to get too frustrated during this top 5 – it sure gave us some anger issues while working on it. Let’s begin.

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dragons dogma

Capcom has definitely created some memorable franchises since it was founded over three decades ago. We’ll always love Resident Evil, no matter how hard the studio tries to destroy it, and other big names like Street Fighter and Monster Hunter still sound as fresh as when they first launched. So with all the love that these games get from the western regions, why is it that Dragon's Dogma Online is only launching in Japan? At least that’s the initial plan.

A free-to-play game for PC, PS3 and PS4, Dragon's Dogma Online sounds like a great treat for those who loved the underrated Capcom RPG. Some impressive boss creatures give it a bit of a Monster Hunter feeling, but more on that later. Four classes are revealed, the game world is said to be three times the size of the original game, and while it’s an instance-based game, this shouldn’t deter from the fun. A region-specific release, however, will leave most of us without a chance to try it.



It’s not wrong to say that the only way Borderlands could get any better was to make it an MMO. And it is actually happening! Yay! However, the Borderlands Online announcement left a bitter taste in our mouths, and we’re willing to bet every single fan of the series in North America and Europe felt the same way – why in the hell is this MMO exclusive to China?

Gearbox Software is developing this game in collaboration with 2K Games China and it will be a heavily instance-based MMO, playing pretty much as Vindictus and Dragon Nest. But you’ll get tons of weapons – over two thousand – just like in the main series and hopefully the great loot-based gameplay will remain faultless.

So, once again we get screwed and while in a way we want Borderlands Online to succeed so that a launch in further regions is considered, the evil inside us hopes it turns out a big steaming pile of crap that is played only by a 5-year old kid and his dad.

Holding a grudge, us? Does it show?


monster hunter online 2

Monster Hunter Online is the second Monster Hunter MMO and could be something big. Powered by the CryEngine 3 and being free-to-play, this not only looks good but would get a massive playerbase in a heartbeat; we know just how vocal and devoted the Monster Hunter players are and success would be just a matter of releasing the game in a polished state and with a balanced cash shop. However, being a collaboration between Capcom and Tencent means that this game is going to be a China exclusive, of all things – a franchise that was created in Japan and is loved in the entire world is getting a China exclusive MMO. How weird is that?

There’s a glimpse of hope though; or in fact two. First there was this slip from a Crytek representative that mentioned the game was in development “for the international market” and planned to be “released worldwide”, something that was later retracted. Then there’s the benchmark tool, which for some unknown reason was also released in English. Why would they do so if the game is allegedly a China exclusive?

Anyway, Monster Hunter Online would probably bring in the big bucks for Capcom but I guess the Japanese studio doesn’t like money.


call of duty online 2

Another big series that is going to China is Call of Duty Online, thanks to a deal between Activision and giant Chinese publisher Tencent. Development on this game switched from Activision Shanghai to North American studio Raven Software, but the launch is still exclusive to China.

There are a few odds things surrounding Call of Duty Online. First of all, it’s a bit weird that to promote such an exclusive game the marketing people decided to get the very popular Hollywood actor Chris Evans, which you may know as Captain America, but he’s also been in other movies including the extremely cool Snowpiercer. Despite being a huge publicity stunt, it would probably make more sense to hire a famous Chinese actor, right? Unless… Activision isn’t ruling out a global release sometime later, but this is such a long shot that we won’t even lose too much time with it. A release in the US would probably cannibalize part of the playerbase that every single year buys a new Call of Duty, so there’s clearly a conflict of interests that won’t benefit the publisher.

As far as the game itself goes, it looks like a decent shooter that is faithful to the series mechanics, including a PvE mode, weapon customization and some big bosses, but it’s not likely to set the world on fire. We wouldn’t mind seeing it in the west though.


halo online 2

When Halo Online was announced, it was kind of a shock and a surprise to us – with all the popularity of the multiplayer mode of the main franchise, is this free-to-play online shooter really necessary, or better yet, requested by anyone? Apparently, Microsoft also has this lingering doubt and made sure that the game was going to be exclusive to Russia, a country that has seen other games begin their lifecycle over there – World of Tanks and Warface are two examples. At the time of the announcement there were no plans to bring Halo Online to other regions, but this could serve as a test for a posterior release.

The Halo Online announcement made us consider a few things. For instance, the fact that it is said to be optimized for lower-end PCs makes us think that it’s not going to be a very flashy game, but one that will try to get as many players as possible playing it – and spending money on a cash shop. Being developed by Saber Interactive, the same studio that worked on Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, hints at a lot of reused assets, cut corners and simply getting a very familiar game running in very little time. The whole thing screams of a low resources, maximized revenue kind of game which will probably get a lot of attention for its name alone.

We may be wrong and this could be a really good game that does the Halo series justice, but if so, then more reasons we would have to bitch about it, in face of the Russia exclusivity. If it’s going to be great, it’s probably going to make a lot of money globally, right? Alas, that is not the case.

In fact, some fans are so angered at the exclusivity that even created a modified launcher that removed the geo-restrictions of Halo Online. However, Microsoft swiftly acted and slapped them with a cease and desist.

We know we’re digressing quite a bit and a game such as Halo Online should be made and be available for everyone to play, but we can’t help and feel that it is kind of redundant, in the same way that Call of Duty Online seems to be. Sure, there will always be players enjoying it, but we can’t help missing the true Halo Online, the MMORPG that Ensemble Studios was developing with a $90 million budget to compete with World of Warcraft, until development was canceled in 2007. Now that would be a tantalizing game, one that would print money for Microsoft. Here’s hoping it will happen sometime, preferably while the series is still hot.


Right now, these are the five free-to-play titles that we consider the most likely to get a huge following in North America and Europe, but the publishers somehow decided to go for an exclusive deal and settle for a big nice bag of cash instead of going global. We can only speculate on the reasoning for these decisions, but there’s probably conflict of interest and the appeal of licensing the franchise to another publisher and seeing them manage the game. On the downside there’s always the chance that said franchises come out stained from a bad, rushed free-to-play game, but I guess that’s a risk more and more studios are willing to take.

Any other big name exclusive games you would like to see in your region? Let us know in the comments!


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