Korean game companies rush to tap U.S. market

2024.05.10 14:43:02 | 2024.05.10 14:46:39

[Courtesy of Netmarble Corp.]이미지 확대

[Courtesy of Netmarble Corp.]

South Korean game publishers, whose growth is stagnating, are ramping up efforts to expand their presence in the United States, the world’s largest market.

The United States, a stronghold in the gaming industry, has high average payment amounts per user as well as various game genres and platforms that are showing steady growth. But not many Korean game publishers have been successful in this land of opportunity.

According to the gaming industry on Thursday, Netmarble Corp.’s highly anticipated game, “Solo Leveling: ARISE,” which was released on Wednesday, topped App Store charts in 78 countries, including the United States, France, Korea, and Taiwan, immediately after its release.

Based on a popular webtoon intellectual property, the original webtoon has accumulated over 14.3 billion global views.

The company has high hopes for the North American market in particular. The game is known to be 11th in App Store sales rankings in the United States as of Thursday and 16th in Canada.

Netmarble announced that the number of pre-registrants for the new game surpassed the 15 million mark worldwide.

To commemorate the initial gamification of the Solo Leveling: ARISE IP, Netmarble actively unveiled marketing activities such as outdoor advertising in New York Times Square.

Console game “Stellar Blade,” released by Korean game company Shift Up Corp. on April 26th, 2024, also continues its initial momentum by ranking in the top five of the popular ranking on the U.S. PlayStation Store earlier in May 2024.

Stellar Blade is an AAA console game developed by Shift Up, marking its first entry as a second-party developer for Sony in Korea.

The game garneared attention by ranking first in sales in the Amazon PS5 category in the United States in pre-orders alone.

It is heightening expectations for success overseas, particularly in North America which was once considered a wasteland for Korean games.

Devsisters Corp., the developer of the “Cookie Run” IP, is also aiming to tap the U.S. market.

The company plans to release its new casual game, “Cookie Run: Tower of Adventures,” in global markets, including the United States, in June 2024.

The Cookie Run IP, which is especially popular in Western markets, is attracting gamers’ interest.

DevSisters conducted a global private beta service for the new game in January 2024. During the testing period, the majority of participants accessed the game from outside Korea, with the most users coming from the United States.

The previous title, “Cookie Run: Kingdom,” placed third in the U.S. App Store sales rankings in October 2021.

According to market research firm Newzoo, the U.S. gaming market is estimated to total around 648 trillion won ($474 billion) annually, making it the largest market in the world wirh an estimated gaming population of over 200 million.

Analysis suggests that both market size and gaming population are six times larger than those in Korea. While the U.S. market has been dominated by console games, the popularity of mobile games, an area in which Korea is strong, is increasing.

According to mobile market research firm Sensor Tower, mobile game revenue from the U.S. market in the first quarter of 2024 was about $6.4 billion, up 15 percent compared to the same period during the previous year to hit its highest level since the second quarter of 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak.

NCSoft and Kakao Games Corp. are also focusing on penetrating the U.S. market.

NCSoft is collaborating with Amazon Games to launch its new title, “TL.” It also plans to release “Battle Crush,” a melee combat action preferred by North American users in the first half of 2024.

Kakao Games is preparing to launch “Goddess Order,” an action role-playing game set in a medieval fantasy world, with a global release date set for the latter half of 2024.

Game companies are turning their attention to overseas markets, including the United States , as growth in the domestic market slows down.

The Korean gaming industry has been criticized for its limitations, such as game IPs and revenue models focused on mobile-only platforms and a business structure that only concentrates on certain regions such as Korea and China.

A breakthrough strategy to diversify portfolios is to focus on two keywords, Western market and console.

By Hwang Soon-min and Lee Eun-joo

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]