I have been playing Lost Ark a LOT lately. The game is fantastic and I wish nothing but success for the game and its developers. However, with that being said, I foresee three extremely large hurdles that the game will have to overcome in their NA and EU release.
1) Player Perceptions
Anyone even remotely invested into the gaming community is familiar with the term Pay-to-Win and even more so Americans' reluctance to adopt Pay-to-Win games as a staple in their sphere. Although I honestly believe Lost Ark is NOT pay-to-win-, its monetization model is based around an in-game cash shop that offers cosmetics as well as Pay-for-Convenience services such as character boosts to max level. Regardless of your outlook, the player perception here is that the game will be Pay-to-Win.
The second hurdle they will need to overcome in the North American market is the game being an MMO, specifically an MMO-RPG. Again, the player's perception is that the MMO-RPG genre is dead. People perceive the genre to be one that is stagnant and requires a high time investment to succeed or progress; both of which are not entirely wrong. So while Lost Ark coming to NA may entice some of the already dwindling active mmo-rpg fanboys and girls out there, capturing the attention of new players' that are not already a fan of the genre is going to be much much harder. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the gameplay loop and visuals, from an outsider's perspective, are largely the same as games like Path of Exile or Diablo. Both of which dominate the ARPG genre already. Lost Ark’s whole shtick is that it’s similar to these games but adds an MMO element to it. While this is brilliantly executed by the developers, they’re still subject to the same pitfalls that games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 or Runescape have, which is they all struggle obtaining new players not already fans of the genre.
3) Player Accessibility
According to a study done by the National Purchase Diary Panel, or NPD Group for short, they found that 67% of the U.S. population, 211.2 million people, play video games. Of that 67%, only 35% are PC gamers or roughly 74 million. The remaining 65% of people listed themselves as Mobile or Console players. This means that by Lost Ark being PC exclusive they inherently lose access to 137 million US players. Regardless of your opinion the growing popularity and dominance of console and more specifically mobile gaming is irrefutable. While making a PC exclusive game is not a new concept or one that is completely damning to the developer, it is definitely an example of another huge hurdle that the game will need to overcome in order to successfully break into the North American market.
Clearly and concisely confront the perception of pay-to-win mechanics in their game. If your game is not pay-to-win, address that it is not pay-to-win by giving an in-depth description of what players can expect to get out of the cash shop. Better explain the benefits of paying vs playing for free.
More clearly explain to players as to why your game is different and what it has to offer. As we mentioned before, the MMO-RPG genre is not in a good place in the court of public opinion. To help combat this, lean into the aspect of what makes your game stand out and why people should play it. Additionally, provide prospective players with a roadmap of content for the game. The NA/EU launch is going to be the original Tier 1 content, while Russia, Japan & Korea are on Tier 3 with newer bosses, classes and features. Let your player base know what and when to expect these updates as soon as possible.
Port the game to console and / or mobile. 137 million people in the United States alone are Console or Mobile players. Include them into the community. Increase your reach on these platforms and you will see a greater reach in the PC community as well. The more mobile and console players playing your game the more content made about your game. The people talking about your game, and ultimately more people trying your game.