Gaming has been a staple for South Korean for decades and has become a haven for gaming enthusiasts. Through the continuous need for expansion and availability of different gaming platforms, the top three gaming companies in South Korea have started shifting from online games for PC to mobile games. The so-called “3Ns” [Nexon, NCsoft, and Netmarble] have led the country’s gaming industry and are now making their PC games available on various devices.
Millions of gamers in China have pre-registered for the mobile version of the most popular gaming company in South Korea [Nexon]. Shifting focus from PCs, Nexon, and others lure more players in China and Japan. Thus, giving way for a new battleground.
Partnering with Chinese internet giant [Tencent Holdings] provides a way for Nexon to enter the Chinese streaming platform. With the overwhelming result, Nexon’s popular action role-playing game [Dungeon & Fighter] had an over 60 million pre registration coming solely from Chinese gamers.
With the subsequent success, Nexon is also planning to launch a racing game “KartRider” for Microsoft’s Xbox console. A whole new level of battlefield awaits more gaming avid fans.
On the other hand, NCsoft’s Lineage had posted record sales in Google play right after the shift way back 2017. The company’s operating profit doubled over the period of the same quarter, leaving an indicative growth in mobile platforms.
Netmarble is planning to release a new “Seven Knights” series for Nintendo Switch later this year, which became a milestone for them to get into developing gaming software for consoles. More than 10% of all mobile games revenue made in South Korea came from Netmarble in the first half of 2018.
Mobile gaming is far more common than console or PC games (at 37%). The ease of getting and setting up a smartphone makes Korea the country with the highest penetration rate in Asia and number 11 in the world. Digital gaming is a big part of South Korean culture. No wonder the sudden shift of the big 3 in terms of the platform is indeed not surprising.
The mobile game market came to $69 billion in 2019, doubling from three years before. And while gaming markets for PCs and consoles have grown, that for mobile gaming has been even bigger. Millions of people from various age groups spend an average of six hours and 41 minutes a week playing some form of a digital game. This makes a good chunk of the population gamers from the casual to the hardcore.
Providing the availability of existing gaming titles to smartphone users has doubled the earning capabilities of the top three gaming companies in South Korea. All because of the increasing market of mobile game users across the world. Interestingly, the average revenue per paying gamer in South Korea is among the highest in the world, coming only second after Japan, according to Newzoo. Forty percent of smartphone users spent money on mobile games in 2018. Often players spent this money on power-ups (41%), playable characters (38%), and cosmetics/skins (35%).
Smartphones are the most popular gaming device in the world. Although gamer demographics across most markets are generally skewed towards a young male audience. This, along with the high penetration rate of gamers, serves as a testament to how far gaming has gone and how widely prevalent it is. In 2018, the mobile game market alone was worth around USD 3.2 billion with 40% of smartphone users spending money on mobile games. Role-playing games or RPG was the most successful genre with 90% of total revenue coming from this genre.
Nexon and NCsoft’s operating margin significantly rose by 6% in the second quarter of this year covering up 41% and 39% consecutively. Netmarble on the other hand had increased by 6 to 12 percent.
The increasing number of mobile game users due to the worldwide pandemic outbreak helps the Korean gaming industry increase its profit value. With the numerous titles lined up for launching, it is expected to have bright prospects for 2021 and beyond.
Moreover, the stock prices of Nexon and NCsoft were 69% and 52% higher, respectively, than what they were at the end of 2019, while Netmarble’s share price was up by 85%. A great leap from the top gaming companies of South Korea.
While local IP might be the preference for gamers, there is plenty of room for western companies to jump into trending genres and find opportunities at the forefront of technical innovation. Most of the Chinese gaming companies are now innovating their technical prowess and giving an intensified competition towards other big gaming companies across the world. Yet, compatibility and eases of use have significant importance to win the roaring stream of gaming platforms.