International Community Management – Living a Fantasy Life with the Internet’s Friendliest MMO

If you’ve ever yearned for a game that will let you live the fantasy life of your dreams, allowing you to do things other games don’t, then this week’s video game community management review is just for you. We bring you Mabinogi, another long running, though underrated, MMORPG. While initially quirky in appearance (it promises that you can “live your anime life”), Mabinogi is actually steeped in tactical combat, complex character development options, and unending plots, quests and even jobs you can pursue. In truth, the appeal of Mabinogi lies in the fact that it’s unlike any MMO you’ve ever played. Nexon, the developers, really tried to create an environment where people can live out their fantasy lives, complete with customizable anime appearance (people who appreciate anime will automatically connect with this game). Throw in the passage of time, weather, commerce, Shakespeare, and the ability to rebirth and you have Mabinogi.

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It’s more than just combat and 24/7 grinding though. Mabinogi has melded aspects of life into its game that makes it a unique form of virtual reality. You can play an instrument, cook or go fishing just as easily as you can fight a boss or complete a dungeon – players have total freedom. Mabinogi has set the perfect stage for a fantasy life. In fact, many players liken Mabinogi to their online homes stating that they feel “homesick” if they’re away from Erinn too long. This game is the real deal.

After its initial launch in South Korea in 2004, Mabinogi quickly took off in East Asia until finally landing in North America in 2008. After a short-lived European stint in 2010, the game closed after a month due to insufficient players, leaving Mabinogi with a primarily East Asian and American audience. So where is Mabinogi now? We take a closer look at Mabinogi’s international community management and video game localization to get a better feel of what the future holds for the players.

CREATING BUZZ

People who love anime will instantly fall in love with Mabinogi – all character design is done in an anime-esque likeness. Add in anime and Hatsune Miku crossovers and it’s the perfect recipe that fanboys and girls alike will adore. In an expert move, Mabinogi has recently crossed over with Sword Art Online (SAO). For those out of the anime loop, SAO is becoming one of THE most watched animes of our time. The premise of the show is virtual reality gaming that allows players to live out their lives in ways very similar to Mabinogi itself (of course with more plot twists than you can shake a sword at). With a very successful first season, and the current airing of season two, Mabinogi timed this crossover just right with both the Asian and American markets.

To kick off the crossover Mabinogi started things off with a screenshot contest. Players, with the help of in-game costumes, can reenact their favorite scene from the show, post it in the forums, and be one of ten winners for some pretty neat prizes. The players are loving it. There’s not just one SAO event – there’s a bunch – and Mabinogi went as far as integrating in-game events with things that happened on the show. Such a well-timed and appropriately themed crossover shows that Nexon did their research with this and are thinking outside of the box.

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There were only a few things to interrupt this happy-go-lucky vibe. As an outsider looking in I was very disappointed to see how buggy the forums were – sometimes to the point that I wasn’t even sure if I could view them. Most of the time they work, but then other times they won’t load or will load and not display any threads. This leaves a negative impression, particularly for people with whom the forums are their first point of contact. I really began to wonder if these glitches were a reflection of Nexon, especially after reading complaints about how laggy the game can be.

The other thing that seems to really bug people is some of the promos and events. With any online game that has in-game purchases and promos, there are always going to be people that complain about the quality, duration and price of in-game offerings. The community managers are quick to defend these situations with, “at least we get bonus content”, which is true but the people that are really getting the short end of the stick are the EU players.

Any time-based promotional event (“log in at this time to get freebies”, “get it while it’s hot: ends at 9pm”, etc.) is convenient for North American players, but for the EU players that had to move to the NA servers after the EU servers shut down, the timing is incredibility poor. Many players have stated that to take advantage of these events they would have to log in at 4am their time. So far, it doesn’t look like there’s any move to make this easier on EU players.

On the other hand, I’m thoroughly pleased to report that Mabinogi’s social media is fresh and frequent. All too often we see video game community management campaigns that involve reposting the same thing on Facebook and Twitter – this is not the case with Mabinogi and is something that makes following either account worth it. Not only that, but they regularly make a habit of sharing fan-made content on their social media pages. There aren’t many games that will do that, and especially with the frequency that Mabinogi does. The official MB Twitter also posts special deals and promos, maintenance updates, and contest reminders – which makes it totally different from the more general content of their Facebook page.

Unlike a lot of other games, Mabinogi also offers its players a Tumblr page where they can post their fan art, again showing that their CMs have gone above and beyond to give their game a special touch. Also, how many games can put ‘cooking contest’ on its list of events? The Culinary Artist Cooking Contest entailed players cooking up dishes, decorating them and submitting pictures of their scrumptious treats. One hundred and sixty-four tasty entries were posted to Facebook – I think we can safely say that it was a hit. It’s nice to see a MMO that’s doing social media right and making something fun and different out of it.

MAKING CONNECTIONS & LISTENING

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I started lurking in the Mabinogi forums just in time to witness a rare event – it was one of the community managers’ birthdays. I don’t know how the players found out, but it was touching to see the community’s reaction. This is a great example of how the community managers of Mabinogi have cultivated a lasting relationship with the players. No matter what issues the game might have or how lackluster the promos might be, the players still appreciate, respect and love the CMs. The community managers actively listen, gather information and respond to players’ issues, making them the ideal example of how a CM’s work is never done – they’re on when the players are on.

It appears to be common knowledge around the web that for a free MMO the players of Mabinogi are really nice. And it’s totally true! If I were to recommend a MMO that has a welcoming community it would be Mabinogi. The people are genuine and the vibe is fun (even if it might dip into sarcasm occasionally, but what online forum doesn’t?). If you’re not convinced then let me ask you this – how many CMs advertise what server and channel they will be on and invite players to hang out with them? This type of event is shared on their Facebook page frequently as the CMs make rounds visiting players from different servers and then post group pictures (screenshots) on Facebook and ask people to tag themselves. It’s a one-of-a-kind community.

SUPPORT

It goes without saying that the nicest MMO players on the interweb have got each other’s backs when it comes to support, but when it goes beyond in-game they have a place to fall back on. While there will always be the players that complain about the lack of support, Mabinogi has an equal amount of appreciation. One look at their video game customer support center and we can see a well laid-out FAQ style system. The most general and common questions are answered here, while players with more complex issues are invited to send in a ticket or post to the support forums.

The only blip here that caught my eye was that one thing needed an obvious makeover – the ‘minimum specs required to play’ seemed a bit outdated in the support center yet was clearly updated under ‘clients and drivers’. While we can’t begrudge them too much (because they did have the most up-to-date information in at least one location) I still feel like the main support page shouldn’t be overlooked. Anyone who has worked customer support knows that it’s better to get the customers’ potential questions answered up front so that the more serious issues can be addressed in a timely manner. Who knows how many players skip over the ‘clients and drivers’ page and go straight to the main support center… but in the big picture this is but a blip on their customer service.

When looking at video game customer support Mabinogi has got it down. Especially since the NA site handles all of the North American, European and Oceania support – they get a thumbs up for keeping it all together in a smooth and friendly manner.

LOCALIZATION

A game can’t choose if it’s popular. I have already mentioned the loss of Mabinogi’s European servers and, for a game that’s ten years old, its area of distribution is surprisingly small. To date there are localized versions for Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China while Nexon America handles North America, Oceania, and European players that moved over after the closure or who have since joined. The developers of Mabinogi know who their target market is and their video game localization reflects this – they do not waste resources trying to localize for markets in which they would have little success. That said, with the localized knowledge of a European co-publishing partner, they may have had more success in the European market.

Being a Korean company headquartered in Tokyo, they obviously have the pulse of the Asian market in their hands. All communities have their own individual in-game events and all regions have been localized to region-specific social media (i.e. Weibo). This combination works for them, and Mabinogi is old enough to stick to their guns and do what they do best – create people’s fantasy worlds.

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CM Scorecard:

Creating Buzz: *****

Making Connections: *****

Listening: ****

Support: ***

Localization: ****

 

If you’re looking for a MMO that’s different from the rest in terms of gameplay, originality, and community then look no further than Mabinogi. As a free-to-play game that promises a fantasy life it delivers with a uniqueness not found in online games. As a community, the players are friendly and helpful and the community managers are active and dedicated. Even if you don’t have a localized version everyone is welcome on the NA servers.

At MO Group International we enjoy living out a fantasy life as being providers of the best video game community management this side of the Atlantic. Whether your project is big or small, one language or ten, we can help you with customer support, translation, and video game co-publishing. With over 40 languages at our disposal and our expert staff, we can help you break into new markets with a price that fits with your budget. Contact us about any of our services and don’t forget to take advantage of our free quote and start working on your next video game project.

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