The BLESS Curse Strikes Again!
With the release of Bless Unleashed right around the corner, and some of you with your finger ready on the “purchase Founder’s pack” button, I wanted to talk about one of the largest MMO scams in the history of the genre: The entire Bless IP.
We’re no stranger to games not living up to our expectations. We’re fans of MMOs after all. It comes with the territory.
But even so, rarely are these games legitimate scams, taking advantage of a community of players thirsty for something new and exciting.
And while there are MMOs out there, such as DreamWorld that went on to scam over $60,000 from players, and Chronicles of Elyria which scammed millions – there is no larger offender than the Bless IP.
I figured, what with Bless Mobile – the most recent Bless MMO shutting down in South Korea after only a year of service, this was the perfect time to do a video talking about this. Especially given how Bless Unleashed is nearing release on PC, and Bless Mobile launched globally just a few months ago.
So let’s give the game a little backstory. Bless Online was announced all the way back in 2011. The game was developed utilizing Unreal Engine 3, and suffered from quite a few performance issues as many Unreal Engine 3 MMOs do. Approximately $60,000,000 was invested into bringing this game to life.
In 2014, the first state of Closed Beta testing began in South Korea. The reception was quite poor, which ultimately delayed the game several years, releasing into Open Beta within South Korea in August 2017. 3 whole years after their first Closed Beta test.
This release was completely free-to-play, requiring no purchase of the base game, no recurring monthly fee.
After the critically negative response to the game within South Korea, Neowiz, the developers of Bless Online decided they were going to attempt a release outside of the games country of origin: Specifically, Japan and Russia.
Russia received the Open Beta version of the game in December 2016, and after less than a year online, the game had already been shut down due to the Russian publisher claiming they were unable to provide their players a “quality title and experience.”
Inferring that Bless Online was most definitely not a “quality title,” nor did players have an “experience” they were satisfied with. I want to note here that the Russian version of Bless Online, much like the South Korean version, was completely free-to-play.
Bless Online went into Closed Beta testing within Japan in April 2017, after Neowiz announced they were in the process of overhauling the entire MMO as part of their “Rebuild Project.” This would go on to address quite a number of issues found throughout the game, including performance concerns, upgraded graphics, combat and more.
Japan would be the first region to obtain access to the Rebuild Project, with North America and Europe to follow when the MMO released overseas. Again, I want to note that the Japanese version of Bless Online was entirely free-to-play.
In April 2016, Aeria Games had signed an agreement with Neowiz to bring Bless Online to the West.
Naturally, as Aeria Games was an absolutely atrocious publisher, future players were absolutely shocked and disgusted — and rightfully so. Aeria Games, which is now a part of Gamigo, destroyed every single MMO they got their grubby little fingers on.
But we’re diverging from the topic at hand, so let’s get back on track. Aeria Games revealed they had the rights to publish the MMO in 2016.
People were upset. But what shocked players even more than Aeria Games publishing Bless Online, was their announcement that they were no longer going to honor their contractual obligations to Neowiz, with both companies agreeing to pull out of the agreement.
And this is where everything went downhill.
Neowiz revealed in a public statement that they were going to self-publish Bless Online in the West, shortly before Japan announced they were ceasing operations concerning Bless.
Neowiz confirmed that North America and Europe were still on track to receive the Rebuild Project upon release, while simultaneously announcing that with the closure of their games within Japan and Russia over the last year, this would be the only version of Bless Online outside of South Korea.
Later in 2017, Neowiz announced that we would be receiving Bless Online “sometime in 2018,” and that players would be capable of pre-ordering Founder’s Packs via Steam as part of their “Early Access” program.
It was at this moment that players were left with a big “WTF” face, as Neowiz revealed the prices of the Founder’s Packs in question, while simultaneously confirming that the MMO would be releasing in the West with a buy-to-play business model. The most expensive pack being a whopping $200USD. Yes, 200.
The playerbase reacted with critical negativity – and it makes sense as to why that would be. Shortly after, Neowiz confirmed that they would be reducing the price of the largest Pack down to $150, which for whatever reason sated people’s anger.
I guess this was due to the fact that they thought Neowiz was “listening to player feedback” by reducing the price of the collectors edition to something slightly more reasonable. Admittedly, I know quite a few of our viewers who went on to purchase that pack, and in retrospect, consider it to be one of the biggest regrets of their life.
The other packs were fairly standard, with the the base edition costing $40 and the deluxe edition costing $70 respectively.
Now I want to take a moment here to note that once again, Neowiz confirmed that Bless Online was releasing in North America and Europe with a buy-to-play model.
Let that sink in for a moment. Bless Online released as a free-to-play title in South Korea, in Russia and in Japan. It failed in every country it released in. Neowiz knew that this was going to fail overseas, and in an an attempt to garner as large a return as they could on their investment into their Bless IP, they transitioned to a paid model.
Their one single goal was to earn as much money as they possibly could – at the expense of not only their players, but also their reputation, as 3 years later, Neowiz is still a company that players cringe up upon merely hearing the name of.
Now these Founder’s Packs weren’t the reason Neowiz and Bless Online were considered scams. Quite the contrary, actually.
Founder’s Packs are prevalent in every MMO release these days. ArcheAge did it, RIFT did it, Astellia did it, Ashes of Creation is doing it, New World is doing it, Swords of Legends is doing it.
It’s a common way of obtaining an initial return on investment, and honestly I don’t have any issue with it personally. The scam is from what came next. Bless Online released as a paid title. You had to purchase the game to play it.
Shortly after launching as a buy-to-play title, Bless Online’s concurrent activity levels dropped to critical levels. Players were livid at how bad the game was.
How little improvements were made over each incarnation of the game. How Neowiz failed to live up to any of their promises, such as introducing the new classes into the game. With player numbers dropping by tens of thousands per day, the game died within its first month.
Many players attempted to get refunds, but after playing for a few hours via Steam, they refuse to process refund requests, so many players ended up screwed out of their time and money. To make matters worse, Neowiz revealed later in 2018 that they were going to convert their game to a free-to-play model.
Yes, you heard that correctly. After launching as a free MMO in 3 different regions, then making tens of millions of dollars from Western players, they decided “you know what? If we convert back to a free model we can make millions more!”
And so they did. In October 2018, Neowiz took Bless Online 100% free-to-play. And to add insult to injury, they introduced brand new Founder’s Packs into the game. Allowing for players to once again spend millions of dollars on the failure of an MMO.
And considering player concurrency numbers shot up to over 30,000 at any time during the course of the first week, I feel as though it’s safe to assume players spent quite a bit on it. Both via Founder’s Packs and the in-game cash shop.
Those actions alone put Bless Online and Neowiz down as one of the largest MMORPG scams of all time. However that isn’t where this story ends. Far from it, actually.
After not even 2 years online, Bless, now being referred to as Bless Offline, shut down entirely.
The game was no longer playable, and players who initially bought into the game as a paid title, who were scammed out of their money when Neowiz transitioned the title to a free model, and even players that spent money on the free incarnation of the game had lost everything they’d worked on.
But you know what? When buying an MMO, you do so with the knowledge that one day it might shut down. When WoW eventually shuts down, I will have invested thousands of dollars on it but that I made that conscious choice to.
What Neowiz did, converting their game to a free model after making tens of millions as a paid title though was an absolutely disgusting abuse of trust. However shortly after they shut down, they issued an apology and said they were working on something even better in the future, and they hope players support their next endeavor.
Which turned out to be both Bless Unleashed, and Bless Mobile.
Bless Unleashed was developed by Round 8 Studio, a subsidiary of Neowiz, and published on consoles by Bandai Namco. Players initially criticized the game as being “just another cash-grab” as it released with expensive Founder’s Packs, and was a somewhat altered version of the game that had already scammed us twice in the past.
However since it was handled by Bandai Namco, players had hopes that it wouldn’t fall victim to the same issues it did under Neowiz, and honestly, it really didn’t. At the end of the day, Bless Unleashed on console was a pretty crappy MMO. But it was not a scam.
Yes, Neowiz had taken their assets from Bless Online, overhauled them and made Bless Unleashed. We all know this. And they made a fortune off of the Unleashed title – so much so that – and I know this is going to blow some people’s minds, but that they decided to self-publish Bless Unleashed on PC.
You remember earlier when Aeria Games was supposed to publish Bless Online, and Neowiz broke off, opting to self-publish and ultimately scam us PC gamers? Here’s history repeating itself. Neowiz have decided that they want to self-publish Bless Unleashed on PC instead of Bandai Namco.
Bamco have even went on to distance themselves from the project by stating that they are in “no way connected to Neowiz’s incarnation of Bless Unleashed on PC” and have no control over anything they decide to do on that platform. Which is a very bad sign to hear, especially considering this is coming out some time after July.
Having played Bless Unleashed twice during 2 separate Closed Beta tests, I can tell you that the PC iteration of this game was absolute garbage. Maybe it worked on consoles, but it does not on PC.
And Neowiz are releasing Founder’s Packs for the game – AGAIN – for players that want to reinvest money into funding this game for the umpteenth time.
And while Bless Unleashed was being developed, Bless Mobile began development, releasing early 2020. And like all Bless titles, Bless Mobile shut down after a mere 15 months of being online.
The game was so bad, much like Bless Online and Bless Unleashed, that even mobile players rejected it.
The team behind the game stated “difficulties providing a satisfactory service to players,” and quickly shut the game down. That wasn’t the end of the game, though. Oh, no! Bless Mobile released in the West earlier this year, and… well, was about as well received as you’d expect a Bless title to be.
Every single incarnation of the Bless IP has been for the sole purpose of generating as much money as they can from their players.
The companies behind these games have no interest in the longevity of the titles beyond how much they can make within the first few months of it releasing. They make millions, tens of millions of dollars in their country of origin, shut it down and release it over here to the West.
They make tens of millions of dollars from gullible Western players, then shut the game down over here.
Then they proceed to make an entirely new Bless game reusing assets, reusing ideas. Providing no substance. No reason to invest time or money into the game – yet people continue to fall victim to it time and time again.
I don’t know why, but I feel like the entire Bless IP is probably the biggest MMO scam on the internet. DreamWorld, Chronicles of Elyria, Oath. Yeah, they’re all terrible games that have scammed players out of their hard earned money, but none have come close to this.
And this has been ongoing for years, now, with no signs of slowing down any time soon unfortunately.
This is disgusting. This is abhorrent. This is also terrifying, seeing just how badly we all want something to play. That we’ll openly and obviously let ourselves be sold on something like this.
This has to stop, and we have to stop supporting practices like this. It’s wrong, and so are the companies that prey on our wants and needs.