[MUD-Dev] Cultural impact on Muds (was: Star Wars Galaxies)

Ron Gabbard rgabbard at swbell.net
Wed Feb 5 07:49:43 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "P S" <ps733 at hotmail.com>
> On Tue, 2003-01-28 at 00:36, Eric Hu wrote:

>> Frankly, I was shocked when I read this "...USA currently doesn't
>> to seem actually need to know that much about the cultures it
>> exports to" by the creative director of the most expectant
>> MMOG. Now, I cound understand why Japan videogames could seep
>> into USA but Xbox failed into Japan...

> When I see that I just think "Great, someone stereotyping
> Americans as stereotyping others"

> First of all, the Xbox failed to succeed in Japan only because the
> PS2 was launched there so far in advance.  The very idea that a
> piece of hardware like that one has to be 'culturally sensitized'
> to appeal to a marketplace is silly.. it's the marketting that has
> to be sensitized, and undoubtably MS uses Japanese ad firms to
> market the X-box in Japan.

Not so silly.  There is a pretty famous example of how product
design caused the failure of an international product launch that is
taught in many business schools... Proctor & Gamble's launch of Tide
(laundry detergent) into Japan.  P&G decided they wanted to enter
the Japanese market so they set up the distribution channels and
started shipping boxes of powder overseas.  It flopped.  As it
turned out, these refrigerator-sized boxes of laundry detergent
didn't fit the Japanese culture where space is at a premium.  They
relaunched Tide in a smaller, condensed package and sales took off.
Even the best marketing companies in the world have to take culture
into consideration while designing products for international
distribution.  Sheesh, there were American auto manufacturers still
shipping cars overseas with the steering wheel on the "wrong" side
until recently all the while petitioning Congress to impose quotas
on imports because it wasn't "fair" that we were buying their cars
and they weren't buying ours.

> The second, is that, Lineage, while being a huge success in Korea,
> is a huge failure in America.  If other cultures are so much more
> sensitive to ours, and tailor their big products to us sooo much
> better, why would NCSoft have failed to inspire a following in
> this country?  Korea still plays numerous American titles, the
> cult following of say, Star Craft, being a good example.

> I think it is far more likely that, given a marketplace, a
> homegrown product will usually enjoy an advantage, not just
> because of the supposed 'cultural' problems, but also because of
> the elimination of localization costs and the adoption of local
> (not cultural, but local) icons.  For instance, Lineage is based
> on a Korean fantasy comic book series.  While no doubt it has it's
> own twists and humor unique to Korea, noone can say that fantasy
> comic books in Korea, being hack and slash epics, are any
> different from similar products in say, Japan, ruler of the manga
> market.

There are dozens of reasons that locally produced products tend to
do better in their local market than their competitive imports
ranging from the "buy local" bias you later mention to increased
costs due to currency exchange rates.  However, the fact that
foreign companies are more sensitive to American culture than US
companies are to foreign cultures isn't arguable.  But, neither is
it "wrong", per se.  The US represents 5% of the world population
and 25% of the world's wealth... an extremely large and wealthy
single market.  Add in favorable exchange rates for imported goods,
efficient distribution channels, and a stable economy/legal system
and the US is near the top of most exporter's list of target markets
after their local area.  It's worth the investment for companies to
design/adapt products specifically for the US market where the same
may not be the case for smaller markets with lower per capita
income.  That said, it would be interesting to know the percentage
of AO's customer base that is German given the availability of a
German character set for that game.



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