The biggest genre in the South Korean mobile game market is MMORPG. 'Lineage 2 Revolution', released in December 2016, was a huge success in South Korea. And after that, 'Lineage M', 'Black Desert Mobile', 'MU Origin 2', 'Rohan M', 'EOS Red', 'V4' and 'Lineage 2M' have been released. These games occupied the top gross ranking in South Korea's mobile game market.
The fact that MMORPGs are very popular is not a problem. MMORPG has been one of the most popular genres since 2000, when the South Korean PC game market started to grow. And as games such as Lineage and MU, which became famous at that time, entered the mobile game industry. And the South Korean mobile game market grew even more.
However, I have a concern regarding recent South Korean mobile game sales rankings. It is the fact that Chinese games are becoming very popular.
Let’s take a look at some Chinese games that have been released in South Korea. There are Langrisser, Rise of Kingdoms, and Call of Duty: Mobile. There are also HonkaiImpact3 and Girl’s Frontline.
These games have something in common. It is the fact that genres of these games are not main stream in South Korean mobile game market. There were South Korean developers who tried mobile SRPGs such as Langrisser, but none have been as successful as Langrisser. Mobile action RPGs such as HonkaiImpact3 are very hard to find in South Korean mobile game market. Strategic games have occasionally appeared in the South Korean mobile game market, but none have been as successful as the recently released Rise of Kingdoms. Mobile FPS games were also released by various South Korean companies, but the results were not good.
Let's summarize the two facts above. South Korean mobile MMORPGs are good. On the other hand, there are some minor genres that South Korean game companies don’t do well yet. FPS games, strategy games, and mobile SRPGs. Some South Korean developers have released these genre games, but there are no success stories yet. In the meantime, Chinese games have been becoming popular in these genres.
There is also a sad side. Looking at recent Chinese games released in South Korea, some games are really good, while others aren't. However, I often see these low quality Chinese games generating the best sales in that genre. Therefore, Chinese game companies are often criticized by South Korean users.
It also means that South Korean mobile games can’t beat those low quality Chinese games in some genres. In other words, excluding certain genres like MMORPGs, Chinese mobile games are now overtaking South Korea.
In the future, Chinese game companies will more and more enter South Korea. In recent years, the Chinese government has strongly regulated the game industry, so Chinese small and medium-sized game companies have begun to actively target foreign markets, especially South Korean, Japan, and South East Asia.
As the quality of Chinese mobile games improves, the revenue that Chinese mobile games make in the South Korean mobile game market is increasing. According to market researcher Sensor Tower, Chinese games accounted for 14.2% of total sales in the top 100 of the South Korean mobile market revenues in the first quarter of 2018 and 24.8% in the third quarter of 2019. The market share of Chinese mobile game has nearly doubled in one year and nine months.
Assuming this continues, what is going to be like the South Korean mobile game industry? South Korean games will continue to be popular in the MMORPG genre. On the other hand, in the other genres, Chinese games will take the biggest share.
Is there any way to prevent the rising of Chinese mobile games in South Korea? I don’t think there is particular way. We can only hopes South Korean companies do well in other genres. But as I mentioned earlier, the South Korean mobile game industry is very focused on MMORPGs(or RPGs). Some game companies have tried to do well in other genres. But result wasn’t good.
Considering the quality of recently released Chinese mobile games, I don't think there is much time for South Korean game companies to prepare. The problem is obvious and there is not enough time. But there is no solution. Still, I hope South Korean companies continue to evolve their well-made MMORPGs. That way, their share of this genre will be kept.
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