Updated: Jun 19
The Korean game market has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In 2021, the market size reached a staggering KRW 20.99 trillion, a notable 11.2% increase compared to the previous year's KRW 18.88 trillion. This consistent growth trend has been a defining feature of the Korean game industry over the past decade. Traditionally, the market was dominated by N2, which refers to NCsoft and Netmarble.
However, 2021 witnessed the rise of new contenders that challenged the established order. Krafton's "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds" achieved tremendous success, posing a potential threat to the existing powerhouses. Additionally, Kakao Games, leveraging its ownership of KakaoTalk, acquired Lionheart Studio, the developer behind "Odin: Valhalla Rising." This strategic move propelled Kakao Games into a major player, with annual sales reaching the trillions of Korean won. This shift is seen as a generational transformation from the N2 era to the K2 era, signaling the evolving landscape of the game industry.
The market competition is further intensified by the entry of companies like Devsisters and Pearl Abyss. Devsisters, the creator of "Cookie Run: Kingdom," experienced a remarkable 500% increase in sales, reaching KRW 400 billion in 2021 compared to the previous year. Their success in the United States and Japan with the upgraded version of their game positions them well for future growth and the development of new titles. Pearl Abyss, known for the MMORPG "Black Desert," made a significant move by entering the Chinese market with "Black Desert Mobile" in 2021. While their performance in China fell short of expectations, the fact that they managed to enter the world's largest game market holds great significance. With upcoming titles like "Crimson Desert" and "Dokebi," Pearl Abyss exhibits promising growth potential.
The game industry is also exploring new avenues by leveraging popular IPs from other forms of entertainment, such as dramas, movies, and webtoons. For instance, Netflix announced its plans to develop games based on hit series like "The Queen's Gambit" and "Money Heist." Kakao and Naver are also utilizing their webtoon IPs to fuel game development strategies and tap into the mobile game market. The trend of consecutively developing games based on upcoming webtoon IPs is gaining traction, fueled by the success of Naver's webtoon "Tower of God."
Furthermore, the Korean game market is expanding its reach into console and web board games. With the increasing convergence of console, PC, and mobile platforms, the industry is eyeing the console game market for new business models and market opportunities.
Simultaneously, relaxed regulations on web board games have allowed game companies to bolster their offerings in games like poker, omok (five in a row), and janggi (Korean chess).
The Korean game market is a dynamic and evolving landscape, driven by emerging powerhouses and innovative strategies. With its continued growth and exploration of new frontiers, it promises to deliver exciting experiences to gamers worldwide.
BLT & Partners has the most extensive business network in Korea and a team of top-notch professionals, including IP attorneys, lawyers, financial experts, marketers, and more. If you’re looking to enter the Korean market, we have everything you need to succeed. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your goals in Korea.