Archive for: February 2010

Social Network Games in Korea

In Korea, the social network gaming market is definitely growing fast but not necessarily in the same direction as the North American market. The Korean market is more skewed towards an MMORPG-like online games. This posting will discuss the differences and similarities between two markets, and review major social network games in Korea.

Korea vs. North America

Let’s look at the North American social network game from a Korean user’s point of view. The most popular games such as Pet Society and Farmville are not stand-alone games. These games are created to be played on major social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. The game itself is rather casual and simple. No fancy graphics nor complicated gameplay. It’s very easy to play and also easy to quit.

<Playfish’s Pet Society in Korean language version>

On the other hand, the Korean social network games come as more MMORPG-like: a heavy client, more complex graphics and a variety of in-game contents. Of course, there are more Facebook-like approaches as well in Korea. Major portals such as Cyworld and Nate offers more casual games that can play with other users.

<Nexon’s Nexon Star>

Major Social Network Games in Korea

Nexon Star

Nexon Star is without a doubt one of the most ?popular social network games in the first half of 2010. Currently, the game is in open beta. Nexon Star offers not only casual games but also blog service. Like MMORPG, the goal of the game is to create own avatar and grow it by playing mini games or collecting items. However, There is no dungeon-like features in the game.

A player can interact with the community ?by showing off your ‘star’ and visiting others. Cute graphics and non-violent contents make Nexon Star appropriate for everyone.

Coctale Online

Coctale Online is developed by Grid Interactive and currently in open beta in Korea. The game is like MMORPG but demands less attention. It is designed to let a player be able to work on something else while playing mini games.

Milu Online

A 3D game Milu Online focuses on communications among users, even between other language speakers. The Korean-Japanese simultaneous translation engine is embedded in the game.

A user can enjoy a variety of ?activities such as fishing and collecting goods in the game. The game launched commercial service.

Catch me if you can

Catch me if you can is developed by a in-house team at AhnLab, a leading anti-virus and anti-spyware software and solutions provider. The game is available on Facebook and?Nate (a Korean equivalent of Facebook).

Social Network Game or Casual Game?

Other than the games mentioned above, there are some casual or even MMORPG games claimed to be social network games. For example, Angel Love Online serviced by EYA Soft if a self-claimed social network game for its IM and Room customization features. NHN’s Z9 Planet (Korean title: 내맘대로 Z9별) is a rather casual RPG except synchronizing with Naver blog.

Upcoming Social Network Games in Korea

Bono Bono Online

Bono Bono Online is currently developed by Barunson Games based on the popular comic and animation series with the same title. Not much has been revealed about the game but the developer said it would be a social network game that closely follows the original content.

The game is expected to kick off a CBT in the first quarter.

MAF Online

MAF Online operates under one goal: Make a Friend. Waffle Soft revealed a gameplay at GStar 2009 and received a positive feedback from the audience. A pet named Bell will reflect your emotion in the game.

MAF Online is expected to enter a CBT in 2010.

Project AYU

Triple Studio’s Project AYU aims to be a social MMOG. A player can level up and network with other players and NPCs. The game is expected to enter a CBT in the first half of 2010 and OBT towards year end.

[Bluehole Studio] Self-Publishes TERA for North America

teraBluehole Studio announced that TERA will be self-published for the North America region by its subsidiary, En Masse Entertainment, formerly Bluehole Interactive.

TERA kicks off the 3rd Closed Beta test from February 26 for 10 days via NHN Hangame in Korea.

[Korea] Console Gaming Market

Jong Shin Choi, CEO of Barunson Creative, discussed an issue of console piracy at the G-Seminar 2010 in Korea.

Jong Shin stressed the fact that “The console gaming market in Korea only accounts for 15% compared to 51% market share in the global gaming market.” And the piracy issue has to be addressed to guarantee ?the continuous growth of the local console market.

It ‘s Not All About Online Games

There are a few console game developers in Korea despite of its small market size. Total of six developers have released eight titles so far.

  • Console Game Developers in Korea: Barunson Creative, Daewon Media, Gravity, Just One Interactive, Skonec Entertainment,?Softmax

Online Games still take a majority of market share as accounting for 76% of the Korean game market. In 2009, 24 titles for PS3 and PSP released by Sony while only 20 titles for the Nintendo Wii. (The Nintendo Wii console itself was sold more than million units in Korea.)

Jong Shin pointed out that only 22 out of 80 PS3 titles and 12 out of 53 Xbox250 titles were introduced in Korean language through localization. Nintendo released every title in Korean language due to its company policy. He found that localization costs increase and piracy issue may have been the main reason behind such decrease.

Immediate Action Required

Jong Shin fretted that in the past piracy had been done within a small circle of groups due to its difficulty and limitation. Ever since the introduction of the Nintendo DS, however, console piracy found its way into a mass market and a younger age group.

He said “Nintendo DS has been sold more than 3 million units in Korea but the internal research concluded that the half of the units sold didn’t buy any games.”

In order to grow the local console market like Japan, consumer education on the piracy issue is needed.

Casual Games Will Rule the World

To view a global gaming market trend, the casual game market is expanding faster than the hardcore market. Nintendo is cashing out in the casual game market.

Microsoft introduced a technology code-named Natal that allows players to play game without a controller for the casual gaming market. A company in Korea are currently developing a game using this technology as well.?Sony also plans to release motion controller in this fall to join the competition.

If you look at the trend of Korean console gaming market, cross platform game development based on already famous IPs seems to be a popular choice. An online game with a fan base can be transformed into a console game or find a niche market for the educational games.

Q&A

During the Q&A, he shared his thought about the console game market and what has to be done.

On Nintendo DS sales

It actually decreased in 2009. The hardware sales recorded 1.6 million units but one of the best selling title, Magic Thousand Chinese Characters (마법천자문: Kor), sold only 110,000 units.

In general, the ratio of the console hardware vs. software sales is 4 to 6. In other words, if someone buys a hardware, s/he usually buys 7.5 softwares. But in Korea the ratio is somewhat like 7 to 3. Only 3 game titles are purchased per 7 consoles.

On actions needed to be taken

There is no short cut in piracy. A government and corporates should commit to a long-term customer education.

On next working title

Currently working on a game based on the Barunson’s popular character in Europe. Also, working with Gravity to remake a classic arcade game, Double Dragon for XLBA. Probably an educational game later on.

On Nintendo’s third party support

From the early development stage, Nintendo involved with the project in terms of tech support. Nintendo doesn’t support any marketing or promotion activities but support a game distribution.

[KOG] Grand Chase Surpasses 21,000 CCUs in Brazil

KOG‘s Grand Chase surpassed 21,000 CCUs in Brazil last January. ?The game has been operated by Level Up! Interactive in Brazil since 2006. Grand Chase Season 3 update is planned for the first half of the year.

[Korea] M&A News

I’ve got three M&A news from Korea.

1) CJ Internet Looking into GameHi

CJ Internet is looking into buying GameHi, a developer behind a popular FPS game Sudden Attack. CJ Internet said “we are considering the option in order to strengthen our game development competitiveness, but nothing is decided yet.”

2) A Book Publisher Became a Major Shareholder of YNK Korea

A book publisher of “The Lord of the Rings” in the Korean language, Golden Bough (황금가지: Kor), became a major shareholder by obtaining 33% of total shares of YNK Korea.

3) Nflavor and Aeonsoft ?Became One

Nflavor and Aeonsoft announced their merger on February 10. Both companies are a part of Gala Group. Nflavor’s CEO, Seung Hyun Park, will serve as a CEO of Aeonsoft as well.