When you hear about “The Most Popular FPS in The World”, what game series would come into your mind; Doom, Overwatch, CS:GO, Halo, or something unorthodox like Portal? Does CrossFire ring any bells? Starting today, you should remember that name, not just because CrossFire X is going to be released on Xbox Series X, but that was the game that had a total of 1 billion registered users with 6 million active players as of February 2020. Compare that to Fortnite‘s 250 million players. Or Minecraft‘s 480 million. There’s a massive difference.
“That still didn’t answer what CrossFire is, though?” you asked. And how did it get that “1 billion players” popularity? Let’s start from the beginning…
How did CrossFire Get That Popular?
CrossFire‘s South Korea-based developer, Smilegate, was founded in 2002 by Kwon Hyuk-Bin when South Korea’s online gaming scene was starting to boom. Around that time, the country that’s now synonymous with K-pop produced many classic MMO titles ranging from RPGs like Ragnarok Online and MapleStory, other variety of genres such as Gunbound (platformer shooter, think Worms), Pangya (golf), 02Jam and Audition Online (rhythm), GetAmped and Dungeon Fighter Online (beat-em-up), to FPSes including Sudden Attack, War Rock, and Combat Arms. All those FPS titles were developed by Nexon, one of Smilegate’s biggest rival in the MMO industry. As an industry giant, Nexon even gained the license to produce the official free-to-play version of Counter-Strike for Asia, Counter-Strike Online.
So instead of trying to fight such a strong enemy head-on in Korean and Southeast Asian markets, Smilegate turned its head — to China.
After releasing CrossFire in 2007 (with Neowiz as their publisher) Kwon managed to secure a deal with the then-still-growing internet giant Tencent to distribute the game in China. Thanks to massive numbers of players, the sales went through the roof. Smilegate’s revenue jumped to $188 million in just five years; and exploded into $483 million in 2014. At that point Forbes Asia estimated Kwon’s net worth is at $3.6 billion and launched him into the top 10 wealthiest people in South Korea to this day.
Crossfire then spread to many countries, not just releasing the Asia-Pacific version in 2008-2009, it also launched for North America in 2009. Russia got their share the next year. Europe and Latin America followed later. In Southeast Asia, CrossFire had a brief “rivalry” with another free-to-play shooter called PointBlank made by Zepetto Co. But after they had a relaunch in 2014 and released a mobile game, PointBlank: Strike, Zepetto decided to close up shop on 28 June 2017.
How Does The Game Play, Though?
As far as I remember, in terms of how it looks and generally feels, I’d say it’s somewhat similar to how Counter-Strike 1.6 plays. Although instead of having “counter-terrorist vs terrorist” angle, the game features two mercenary corporations, Black List and Global Risk. Most gameplay modes support a maximum of 16 players, divided into two eight-man teams. But Since this is an online game that keeps getting updated since it’s first released in 2007, there are many gameplay modes to choose from. Ranging from basic deathmatch or objective-based like:
- Team Deathmatch
- Search & Destroy
- Bounty Mode (CS-style Bomb Defusal mode)
- Free for All
- Elimination (team deathmatch without respawns)
- Suppression Mode (faster Search & Destroy, with Black List team all getting bombs and spawning near plant site)
To unique ones, for example:
- Mutation Mode (zombie mode)
- Hero Mode (variation of zombie mode, but adds extra “hero” character in the survivor team)
- Ghost Mode (Black List is invisible and can only use melee weapons)
- Escape Mode (Black List have to escape the level through a portal)
- PVE Zombie Mode
- Wave Mode (MOBA-style five vs five with turrets and main base)
- and others
Obviously there are microtransactions in it (otherwise where did that $180 million revenue comes from?) but personally I thought the cash shop was pretty fair. You can get most character skins and rent weapons for quite a long time with the in-game currency GP or simply buy them with real money. Compared to something like PointBlank, where you will be outgunned by kids with akimbo golden Vector SMG. I can hold my own just fine with a 30-days rented FAMAS and the basic SWAT/SAS-inspired military operator character designs were far better than the paid skins which were mostly just scantily-clad girls. Hey, if it sells, it sells. I’m just glad I don’t have to spend any money — aside from paying the internet cafe costs — that way.
How is CrossFire Doing Now
Unfortunately early this year, Smilegate finally announced that they are closing CrossFire‘s South Korean server after 13 long years serving their players. But the CrossFire brand is evidently still going strong and well, considering the Z8Games’ North America server is still alive and Smilegate collaborating alongside Max Payne and Alan Wake‘s Remedy Entertainment to co-develop CrossFire X, the next-generation title for the “most popular FPS in the world.”
In addition to reaching global mainstream gaming audiences with the big-budgeted CrossFire X for Xbox Series X, a real-time strategy spinoff CrossFire: Warzone, developed by Joycity, just launched globally for iOS and Android on July 29. Before that, they released a mobile port called CrossFire: Legends back in 2018.
Not just expanding their gamer audiences. In February Variety reported that Sony Pictures is partnering with Smilegate to make a big-screen adaptation, with Tencent Pictures co-producing and co-financing the movie. And in China, CrossFire got a 36 episode, eSport-themed TV/web drama with a $38 million budget that started broadcasting from July 20. According to Niko Partner analyst Daniel Ahmad, the series has now surpassed 100 million views on Tencent Video.
First two episodes already surpassed 100m views on Tencent Video.
760m views and 2.25m related comments on Weibo.
Pan entertainment trends continue for Game IP in China. https://t.co/O4AsgWFyys
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) July 27, 2020
So, that’s what CrossFire is, more or less. Of course, this is just a “brief history” as the title stated, but I hope this article could provide some insight into what CrossFire X going to be. Do you have your own memories of playing this old PC shooter? Tell us about it in the comments.