Is Astellia Online Planning to go Free-to-Play?
So I’ve had an amazing morning so far. I slept in ’til like.. 11am, I woke up to the most decadent pancakes I could ever ask for.. yup. Great morning. Well, until I thought about the state that Astellia is in right now.
I’ve done a couple videos on Astellia over the last year. Naturally – it was a new MMORPG and people were excited for it, myself included. And you know what? At the end of the day, it launched with a buy-to-play business model and surprised a lot of people.
It didn’t go pay-to-win, and unlike Bless, also didn’t take the free-to-play route after losing a large percentage of their population.
But even so, the game has been in a state of constant decline ever since releasing, and the publisher, Barunson did everything they could to delay this stagnation for as long as possible.
Now if you weren’t already aware, Astellia Online in South Korea, its country of origin, shut down earlier this year on January 16th.
This closure was due to Nexon being Nexon, as they had published the game within South Korea and Nexon is notorious for shutting games down at the flip of a coin.
Barunson is the original developer of the game and they’re the very same team responsible for publishing the game over here in North America and Europe – yes, they self-published their own game over in the West.
Unlike the Korean version of the game though there has been quite a significant deviation from the original iteration – with the removal of gender-locks being one of the most important changes.
Although if I recall, they never ended up removing gender locks from every class, right? It’s been so long since I played this that I really don’t remember.
After the subsequent closure of the game, Barunson went on to release a press statement reaffirming their stance on keeping the Western version of the game running and updated with content independant of what occurs within Korea.
Furthermore, Barunson went on to state that they would love to bring aboard the displaced Korean players as these players would bring with them a “wealth of Astellia knowledge” and “experience,” along with “increasing overall player activity,” and “reducing dungeon queue times,” which were already bad enough as-is.
That all happened during approximately January 2020. Fast forward to March 2020. Barunson made a public announcement regarding the games European servers – specifically regarding Aquarius and Canceria.
As of March 17th, the two servers would be merged into one. We all know the reason behind server merges: Populations dwindle, activity declines, less players are out participating in content, less players are queueing up for content and overall participation on the server stagnates.
In an attempt to combat this, Barunson opted to merge the European servers together – at the expense of its players.
Since there’s a limit on the amount of characters you can have on any given server, unless of course you purchase additional character slots, if you have more than 3 characters per server, you’d begin losing anything after your 5th.
Since all characters would be merged onto a single server, your lowest level characters would begin being deleted first.
The game went a few months without any real updates other than their Steam launch, which brought in thousands of new players, but the game never really drew all that much attention via Steam.
There was a small readjustment made back at the end of April to aid in creating a little more flexibility with regards to classes, and that was it in terms of additions or alterations.
Now here comes some interesting information: Barunson revealed just a couple weeks ago that they are no longer going to be in charge of managing the game.
Instead, Studio 8, the development studio behind Astellia and a brand new, currently undisclosed partner will be directly managing operations.
But let’s delve a little deeper into this. Barunson E&A is a South Korean developer. They were in charge of Astellia’s development back in South Korea. Nexon was the South Korean publisher, not developer.
Barunson E&A have several divisions under them, with Studio 8 being the team that directly developed Astellia. Barunson E&A Corp. is the North American publisher, and is a subsidiary of the Barunson E&A parent company, much like Studio 8.
So while Barunson E&A will no longer be in charge of managing the game through the Barunson E&A name, Studio 8, who was and always has been the developer behind the game will continue to manage it.
Who this new unnamed “partner” is is what is most concerning honestly, and could potentially lead the game down a completely new direction of pay-to-win, microtransactions or worse.. they could be working together with a partner in an attempt to go free-to-play – something I know a lot of people would hate to see happen.
These changes aren’t looking very good, even though they’re stating that this will make it easier “for the developers to communicate with the players.” Cutting out more of the North American team that has delivered us a game free of pay-to-win – that continues to push for content we want is not what the game needs.
Honestly, this all seems like a terrible direction to take the game and I can see, especially with the merges going on and future merges no doubt going to take place, that this will be a point in the games life that it won’t be capable of recovering from.
While Astellia isn’t necessarily dead yet, it is in a place where barely anyone actively plays, and it seems like there’s really only one route left to take the game: Free-to-play.
I mentioned this earlier, and I hope, I truly hope that this isn’t where they take the game but.. I feel as though they’re going to relaunch as a free title, like the South Korean iteration of the game originally was, with the South Korean devs and this new “partner.”
While I can’t confirm it, I have a bad feeling this is where the game’s headed and that’s a shame.
RIP Astellia. And what remains of its community.