MMORPG's share in the South Korean mobile game market is very high. Since Netmarble launched Lineage 2 Revolution in December 2016, a lot of mobile MMORPG has been launched every year, and these MMORPGs have taken over the South Korean mobile game market. Almost 10 of top 20 sales of Google Play are mobile MMORPGs, and almost 7 of top 10 sales are mobile MMORPGs.
It is not a problem that sales and popularity of mobile MMORPGs is high. MMORPG has been one of the most popular genres since the growth of the South Korean PC game market. And as the games such as Lineage and Mu entered the mobile game industry one by one, the mobile MMORPG market grew.
However, if you look at the recent mobile game sales rankings in South Korea, there are concerns. In other genres other than mobile MMORPG and mobile RPG, Chinese games are very popular.
Let's take a look at popular Chinese games in South Korea. There are mobile SRPG Langrisser, strategy game Rise of Kingdoms, shooter Call of Duty: Mobile, Legend of Archers. If you include a little older games, there are Honkai Impact 3rd and Girl's Frontline.
What do these games have in common? These are genres for which Korean mobile game companies have not made a representative success story. There was a Korean developer who challenged mobile SRPGs such as Langrisser, but no success has yet been made. Strategic games have appeared occasionally in the South Korean mobile game market, but none have been as popular as the recently released Rise of Kingdoms. Various Korean developers tried mobile FPS games, but the result was not good.
Let's summarize the two facts above. The South Korean game industry has know-how about mobile MMORPGs and mobile RPGs. On the other hand, in genres such as FPS, strategy games, and mobile SRPGs, South Korean developers don’t have know-how. In these areas, Chinese games are increasing their share.
There is a fact that makes me sad. Some Chinese games are indeed good, but some aren't. However, I often see that these ‘not so good’ Chinese games are the most popular games in that genre. A lot of users critically say, “Chinese low-grade games are making money by in South Korea.”
But in reverse, it also means that South Korean game companies couldn’t make better games than these Chinese games. Aside from a few genres, I believed that Chinese mobile games have outpaced South Korea.
It is expected that more Chinese mobile games to enter South Korea. Recently, as the Chinese government's game regulation became more severe, Chinese game companies began to actively target foreign markets. In addition, South Korea is one of the major game markets of Asia. At the same time, the quality of Chinese mobile games has improved overall.
These days, Chinese mobile games are earning more and more revenue from the South Korean mobile game market. According to a survey by market researcher Sensor Tower, Chinese games accounted for 14.2% of total sales in the top 100 of the top two mobile market revenues in South Korea in the first quarter of 2018 and 24.8% in the third quarter of 2019. The market share has nearly doubled in one year and nine months.
Assuming this status continues, what will be the structure of the South Korean mobile game industry in the future? Mobile MMORPGs and RPGs have a competitive edge that South Korean companies have built up so far, and for the time being, South Korean games will remain at the top of the genre. But the rest of the genre will be filled with Chinese games, and Chinese games will compete for the throne.
If so, is there any way to prevent or hold up the ‘air strike’ of Chinese games? Legally and institutionally, there is no way to prevent entry of foreign games, including China. And as mentioned earlier, the balance of South Korean mobile game industry is not good. It's pretty bad. Some companies have made various attempts in the mobile game industry, but the result wasn’t good.
And given the quality of Chinese mobile games that are recently released, it seems that there is not so much time.
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