According to a hands-on preview posted up over on Noisy Pixel on February 13th, 2019, the outlet had an opportunity to ask about Nexon’s upcoming MMO, AxE, which is set to release in the West. According to the brief encounter the site had with Nexon Red’s CEO, Daehwon Kim, and lead gamer designer at Nexon Red, Hun Im, they explained that the game will be changing in an attempt to appeal to what they believe to be Western standards.
Kim and Im told Noisy Pixel that instead of just “localizing” AxE they will be using “culturization” in an attempt to appeal to the West. This process includes completely changing the character costumes and the visual look of the characters, such as completely altering the character models altogether. The changes are rather drastic, too.
Noisy Pixel shared a comparison between the South Korean promo art featuring the character classes and the Western version’s promo art. You can compare the two below, with the South Korean version being at the top and the Western version being at the bottom.
The most obvious difference between the two promo pictures is that the Western version completely axed the loli from the line-up, replacing her with what looks like a mage with two pigtails.
The South Korean version also retains more of a traditional Asian aesthetic – the females have much softer features and look more relaxed, compared to the more pensive and aggressive design in the Western version.
According to the Nexon developers, they told Noisy Pixel…
“Because of our past experiences with previous titles on different platforms, we decided to take localization a step further and did all the changes [in AxE] because we thought it would be best. […]
“As you can see, the build in Japan and Korea is vastly different from the build that will release in the west. If this [AxE] was a more simple game, then there would be just one build, but this is much more of a hardcore game with a lot more serious content. We wanted to make sure that AxE is a fit for the hardcore gamers in each region, and that the game satisfies all players.”
It’s a bizarre decision given that Nexon tried this same tactic before by altering (or more accurately, censoring) Hyper Universe, which resulted in the core community abandoning the game. Nexon eventually shut the game down, and it found its way onto the Get Woke; Go Broke Master List.
Other developers have also tried appealing to the West by censoring their games, such as NetMarble censoring Lineage 2 for the Western release, or Nintendo censoring Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE which caused it to bomb at release, or NCSoft censoring Blade & Soul for its Western release, as detailed by Censored Gaming.
Given that recent history typically shows that censored games released in the West seem to do poorly in comparison to the uncensored versions available in the East, it’s hard to see AxE manage to overcome this stigma and retain its playerbase.
The game is set to release soon in the West after having a solid run on mobile devices in South Korea and Japan. Pre-registration has begun for Western gamers and you can either learn more about AxE: Alliance x Empire or pre-register to participate in the beta by visiting the official website.
(Thanks for the news tip IIXI)