#KnowYourMarket: Mobile Gaming in South Korea

#KnowYourMarket: Mobile Gaming in South Korea

We’re continuing our series called #KnowYourMarket, where we will be exploring the various countries and their mobile gaming community, their significant growth, and unique cultural distinctions so game developers get at least a basic understanding of the mobile gaming market in a diverse space like Asia. In knowing this, game developers and publishers will be more equipped and attuned to making calculated decisions when interacting with the various demographics that will discover their games.

For the past few blogs in this series, we covered the mobile gaming market in Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Today, we venture into the country of South Korea!

Officially known as the Republic of Korea, South Korea is a country located in East Asia that occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. It has a population of approximately 52 million people and is the fourth-largest economy in Asia. It is known for its rapid economic development, which was achieved through a combination of government policies, such as export-oriented industrialization and investment in education, as well as the hard work and dedication of the Korean people. In recent years, South Korean entertainment media such as music, movies, TV, and web series are rising in popularity, leading to an increase in Korean cultural influence over the world. Korean is the official language and is spoken in all situations including professional settings.

The Gaming Culture and Market

South Korea is the fourth-largest mobile game market in the world, and gaming has been a staple of South Korea for decades. According to a study, the South Korean gaming market was valued at 7.325 billion USD in the year 2020 and grew to 15 billion USD in 2021. Internet cafes and PC rooms dedicated to gaming are found on nearly every busy street in the country. South Koreans love their MMOs, so it’s no surprise that League of Legends tops the list of the most-played games. Even after 20 years the game that arguably created Esports — Starcraft: Brood War — is still going strong with its strong fanbase and active players.

South Korea was the first country to host esports events two decades ago, having dedicated TV channels to competitive gaming long before the rest of the world knew what Esports was. While the other countries were still talking about home consoles in 2000, Korea’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism sponsored the World Cyber Olympics alongside Samsung and Microsoft. It’s this forward-thinking attitude that also helped make South Korea a prime contender to become a mobile gaming powerhouse.

The launch of the smartphone and app stores benefitted South Korea which had the right combination of hardware makers, software developers, and internet infrastructure. The strength of Samsung, the long success of companies like NCSoft, and the country’s willingness to invest early into developing internet infrastructure ensured it was well-placed to turn its wide range of gamers into mobile users. In fact, South Korea has the highest smartphone penetration rate in Asia and is #11 in the world! It’s even noted that mobile gaming is far more common than console (19%) or PC games (at 37%).

ESports are so popular in South Korea that seasoned players and champions are held in the same regard as sportspersons, actors, and musicians. The rapid advancement of technology in South Korea has led to the accelerated adoption of gaming as a hobby.

The coronavirus pandemic in particular contributed to a steep jump in the value of the gaming market in South Korea. Many of the country’s largest gaming companies saw much higher profits brought in by people who turned to video games for digital entertainment options that could be enjoyed at home. In fact, a Korean cinema called CGV began renting screens out to individual or small groups of gamers during lockdown, when the cinema’s regular customers were no longer enthusiastic about visiting theaters to watch movies.

Mobile Gaming in South Korea

There are over 20 million mobile game users in South Korea, and this makes the Korean mobile gaming industry a point of high interest for global companies. The average player spends around 17 USD on games or game-related purchases per week, and this figure is steadily increasing with each passing year.

Most mobile gamers in Korea seem to be in their forties, at 28.9% of the player base. This age group is closely followed by thirty-year-olds, who make up 25% of the mobile gaming population. These two age groups also spend the most time gaming, with thirty-year-olds averaging about 37 hours per month and forty-year-olds clocking in 35 hours. If you look by genre, however, RPG gamers spend the most amount of time as well as money online, with an impressive 48 hours spent per month. Younger gamers in their teens or twenties seem to have a preference for a first-person shooter, strategy, and action games.

The South Korean mobile gaming market shows immense promise for growth in the coming years as well. With the country’s love for gaming and the top-notch gaming content that its companies are releasing every year, the future of mobile gaming is worthy of excitement.

And that concludes part eight of our #KnowYourMarket series! Tune in to the next two countries that we’ll be covering for this series: Japan and China!

Are you a South Korean mobile game developer? Tell us about your experience developing your game in your market! Use #KnowYourMarketSlab in social media or tag slab in your post! We’d love to know your story working in one of the largest gaming markets in the world.

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Mars Zarate

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