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Jul 13, 2023
Who are the top Korean gaming companies for 2023? When people think about the Korean market , K-pop, K-Beauty, and gaming are the top industries that come to mind. South Koreans love gaming. Over 50% of South Koreans play games on their smartphones . They have businesses just for people to play computer games (PC Bang). Esports is played on TV daily. South Korea was the birthplace of e-sports thanks to the popular Blizzard game Starcraft. Now, the top South Korean gamers participate in games like Overwatch, FIFA Online, League of Legends, and more. Koreans also love mobile games. Currently, mobile gaming is more common in Korea than console gaming or PC gaming. Furthermore, Korea has over 35 million smartphone users. Therefore there is a high demand for all forms of gaming. Especially role-playing games where 90% of all mobile gaming revenue came from this genre. The South Korean gaming industry is stronger than ever. The top 3 major game publishers NEXON, NCSoft, and Netmarble have come to dominate the Korean market. Korea has an incredible gaming infrastructure , culture, and high penetration. Hopefully, despite government regulations, more Korean gaming companies will succeed and take advantage of the opportunity in the Korean gaming market . The rankings were comprised by the Seoulz staff and are based on 4 factors: Funding 1.Nexon Korea Billionaire founder Jungju Kim planned to sell a 98.64% stake in NXC, which is the holding company that owns 48% of Nexon. However, that bid failed, and instead, the company planned to re-examine its ongoing projects and stop work on games that are not performing. Nexon , founded in 1994, is now the biggest gaming company in South Korea. The deal could have been a $16 billion deal, the biggest deal for any gaming company. The bidders were Tencent, Kakao, Bain Capital, and MBK Partners. The favorite to win the bid was Tencent because it owns the exclusive China license for Dungeon Fighter (DNF). Neople , a subsidiary of Nexon Korea is the developer of Dungeon Fighter Online which is now Nexon’s top game and is especially popular in China. Some of their other top games include MapleStory and KartRider. “It’s an honor to be named as the new CEO of Nexon Korea. Nexon’s biggest strength is its years of experience and expertise in the gaming business. I will work to maximize Nexon’s unique strengths to raise the firm’s competitiveness in the global market,” said Lee Jung-hun, CEO of Nexon Korea. Nexon Korea Buys 1,171 Bitcoins In 2021, Nexon made headlines in South Korea for buying 1,171 Bitcoins. The average price of Bitcoin during that time was around $58,000 per bitcoin. This is a clear sign that Nexon believes that Bitcoin offers long-term stability and liquidity while maintaining the value of its cash for future investments. The company states that it spent less than 2% of its cash reserves when making the purchase. Their founder Mr. Kim Jung-ju has been interested in digital coins ever since he acquired Korea’s first virtual currency Cobit, and also made investments in Bitstamp and Tagomi. Nexon’s plan for 2022 will be to launch 10 super game IPs that will be key for their growth in the next decade. Some of their super games include Project Magnum, Mabinogi Mobile, Project ER, TalesweaverM, Project HP, Project MOD, and Project Overkill. In order to increase their game development and secure content IPs, Nexon will hire over 1,000 employees in 2022. Market Capitalization: $27 billion 2. NCSoft NCSoft is the Korean gaming company behind the hit games Lineage 2 and Guild Wars 2. Most of their profits are coming from the mobile gaming sector. However, the good news for NCSOFT is that their main games Lineage and Guild Wars continue to hold strong even in 2022. Their most successful game was Lineage 2M which debuted in late 2019. Lineage M was able to do 1.3 billion won in sales on the day of its launch. In addition, Lineage 2M beat that number. Furthermore, NCSOFT’s Lineage M’s and Lineage 2M had strong revenues in 2020 and 2021. However, the biggest release was Lineage W which did a great job targeting the global market beyond South Korea. “We are bringing the biggest change to Lineage that has built NCSoft for the past 20 years,” said CEO of NCSoft, Kim Taek-jin. Market Capitalization: $20 billion 3. Netmarble Netmarble has had a lot of success overseas. They are one of the leaders in the mobile gaming market in South Korea . In addition, some of their successful releases include Lineage 2, Marvel Future Fight, and Cookie Jam, just to name a few. Netmarble averages annual sales of just under $2 billion. For 2022, they expect their revenue to hit $3 billion with new mobile game titles that will launch this year. Some of the new titles launched in 2021 include Seven Knights Revolution, Second Country: Cross Worlds, and Marvel Future Revolution. Investments by Netmarble Netmarble has also invested in NCSoft Corp. and HYBE. Both companies have done well during the COVID-19 crisis. The value of NC Soft shares owned by Netmarbel stands at around $1.5 billion. In addition, Netmarble is the second-largest shareholder of HYBE with 450,000 shares (Around 25% equity stake). They also own a 5.6% stake in Kakao Games and a 3.9% stake in Kakao Bank. Kakao Games, Kakao Bank, and HYBE. In addition, to companies, Netmarble has been investing in R&D in regard to data infrastructures and AI technology. “The past two decades were all about rolling out landline and wireless internet network infrastructure, and the big question was how we could use that infrastructure to our convenience. But the next two decades will be about how we use data flooding from the infrastructure with the help of AI,” said the Chairman of Netmarble, Bang Jun-hyuk. Market Capitalization: $10 billion 4. Krafton Game Union Krafton Game Union formerly known as Bluehole, is a Korean gaming company that houses different units of game developers and studios that create their own game titles. PUBG Corporation the most successful subsidiary of Krafton is the creator of Playersunknown’s Battleground which is one of the most popular multiplayer games in Korea. Its other subsidiaries include Delusion Studio, En Masse Entertainment, Bluehole Squall, and Red Sahara. They debut Mini Life in 2021 which combines the best of MMO with Social networking games (SNG). Therefore, it is vastly different from Battleground because it is a completely non-violent game. The most innovative feature of Mini Life is that players will be able to engage with others from around the world. Furthermore, players can use an AR camera to take photos with their avatars and even group photos with friends. This unique feature connects a player’s real world with their virtual one. IPO in 2021 Krafton Game Union changed its CEO and did its IPO in 2021. The stock price fell considerably after getting $3.8 billion for its IPO which was South Korea’s biggest IPO in over a decade. Krafton Game Union’s largest shareholder is their chairman Mr. Chang Byung-gyu who controls 41% of the company. Chinese tech giant Tencent is the second-largest shareholder with 10%. Market Capitalization: $4.2 5. Pearl Abyss Pearl Abyss , founded in 2010, is best known for its open-world MMORPG Black Desert Online. The game alone has generated over $1 billion in gross sales in four years. The game has over 10 million users from 150 countries. Furthermore, it is played in 12 different languages. Their release of Black Desert Mobile was also a big hit and the company is growing by double every year. They bought Iceland-based CCP Eve Online for $425 million. Therefore, their expansion into the US will now be easier due to this acquisition. “Our current plan is to have CCP continue operating independently from Pearl Abyss, but our aim is to open lines of communication between the two teams that will have us learning from each other. At some point in the future, our hope is to more closely align the teams to capitalize on each other’s strengths and successfully collaborate to take our games to new players around the world,” said CEO of Pearl Abyss, Robin Jung. The debut of Crimson Desert Pearl Abyss debuted Crimson Desert in late 2021. It is an open-world massively multiplayer role-playing game for both PC and consoles. It was Pearl Abyss’s biggest game since Black Desert. The aim was to mimic the same success Black Desert has had for over 5 years. It used Pearl Abyss’s proprietary game engine, which produces features such as dust, sand, wind, shimmering river waters, moving clouds, and falling leaves. In addition, it will have puzzles, dungeon levels, siege wars, and flying mythical creatures. Market Capitalization: $3.2 billion 6. Gamevil Com2us Gamevil, founded in 2000, went public in 2009 on Kosdaq. They merged with Com2us and in 2013 was renamed Gamevil Com2us . However, in Korea, the two companies are separately operated. Gamevil has over 500 million mobile downloads. Com2us is known mainly for its hit game Summoners War. The game generated over $1 Billion in revenue since 2014. Com2uS acquired German sports simulation game developer OOTP Developments. Entering the Chinese Market China has the world’s largest game market ($36.5 billion). Com2uS obtained a license from the Chinese government for a mobile game (Summoners War: Sky Arena) for the first time in close to 4 years. Market Capitalization: $2 billion 7. GRAVITY Korean gaming company GRAVITY is one of the fastest-growing game developers in Korea. GRAVITY is the only Korean gaming company that is listed on NASDAQ. They became known for their MMORPG Ragnarok Online as well as their IPTV service game that uses Pororo characters. Nearly all of its revenue comes from the games based on the Ragnarok franchise which GRAVITY holds the IP for. GRAVITY is becoming a global company in the online game business by strengthening its development, and technology, and exploring potential overseas markets. The company has established global branches and joint ventures in the US, Europe, and Russia. However, their primary market is in Southeast Asia. GRAVITY is also successful in the mobile game industry. They have developed various mobile games such as Tower of Accession, Ragnarok Ash Vacuum, etc. Their newest mobile game is Ragnarok M: Eternal Love. They outsource Ragnarok mobile game development to partners in exchange for rights to the Chinese market. This means that GRAVITY has minimal game development costs. Market Capitalization: $1.25 billion 8. Webzen Webzen is a Korean gaming company that focuses on PC and mobile gaming. They are best known for their MU series. Webzen has over 600 employees that help operate its global games portal Webzen.com. In 2023 they will continue to focus on MU Origin 2, QubeTown, and other mobile games for the global market. MU Origin 2 has gained a massive following in China. In addition, Webzen has offices in Dublin, Los Angeles, and Japan. “We are working on expanding our IP business, diversifying our portfolio and moving onto other game platforms. We are also in contact with developers from different countries as well as Korea to expand our game development to that of single-A tier games,” said CEO of Webzen, Tony Kim. Market Capitalization: $1.2 billion 9. Smilegate Smilegate RPG is the subsidiary of South Korean gaming company Smilegate . Their top game is their PC game Lost Ark and Crossfire. Lost Ark is a multiplayer online role-playing game that was launched in 2018. Crossfire is still one of the most-played online FPS games in China. The game was in development for 7 years with a budget of a little over $88 million. It is currently the 5th most played game in PC bangs in Korea. Lost Ark won 6 awards including the Grand Prize at the 2019 Korea Game Awards. “When everyone had their eyes on mobile games, we believed in the potential of online PC games and developed Lost Ark. Rather than rest on our laurels, we will continue to expand our base by entering more overseas markets and hosting esports competitions,” said CEO of Smilegate RPG, Chi Wongil. They are also known for their online hit, Crossfire which is the world’s top online FPS game with over a billion players on PC and mobile. It is considered the biggest free-to-play first-person shooter game in the world. Think of it as the Call of Duty of the East. Crossfire alone has generated over $10 billion in revenue for Smilegate. It is also launching a beta test of CrossFireX, a new version of the game for the Xbox One that Smilegate is working on with Remedy Entertainment . Smilegate Launches Service Platform STOVE Smilegate launched its new mobile service platform called STOVE. STOVE provides benefits to both developers and gamers. Developers will be able to focus on developing games throughout each phase of development while reducing infrastructure costs for service. Therefore, gamers will get to experience fun from an open platform regardless of the game, location, or device. STOVE connects gamers with the ‘Gamer Network’ and a built-in gamer interface tool with which players interact, invite, cooperate, or compete with each other in real time. Market Capitalization: $1 billion 10. DoubleU Games Korean game developer DoubleU Games is the top Korean game company dedicated to social casino games. They develop and distribute software for both online and mobile-based games. Their most famous game is DoubleU Casino which is now available in over 120 countries. Other popular games include Take5, DoubleDown Casino, and Ellen Slots. Their target market is users of Facebook and mobile phones. They generated over $420 million in sales in 2018 and surpassed $500 million in 2019 and 2020. Their current market cap sits at around $1 billion. The development of new social titles, in new verticals, will be their plans moving forward. “We are excited and confident about DoubleU Game’s future as a global leader in social casino,” said CEO of DoubleU Games, Ga-Ram Kim. DoubleU Invests in Epic Games DoubleU Games invested $1.5 million into Epic Games. Epic Games released the super popular Fortnite in 2017, as well as Roblox, Minecraft, and Zepeto. This investment will mean that DoubleU Games will focus on the metaverse in 2023. Market Capitalization: $1 billion WeMade Entertainment WeMade Entertainment is a Korean gaming company. They are responsible for the hit game FishingStrike, which was developed by their affiliate company WeMade Plus. They got the IP rights to Legend of Mir 2 and pushed it along with Icarus M. Their focus for 2023 will be to focus on IP protection, attaining new licenses, and new games. Market Capitalization: $610 million NEOWIZ Neowiz , founded in 2007, is the operator of a popular Korean games portal called Pmang. They offer many games through this portal and have acquired many gaming developers. They have a partnership with EA to enter the Japanese gaming market. Neowiz is a subsidiary of Neowiz Holdings. Some of their top games include Tapsonic World Champion, Muse Maker, Jump Arena, and Larva Match just to name a few. Partnership with Taiwanese game publisher NEOWIZ is in partnership with Taiwanese game publisher Cayenne Entertainment Technology Co. for the distribution of the mobile baseball game Slugger. This partnership has given Neowiz entry into not only Taiwan but also Macao and Hong Kong. Market Capitalization: $500 million EyeDentity Entertainment Eyedentity Entertainment is the maker of the popular action MMORPG game Dragon Nest. They have their esports business brand called World Esports Games & Leagues. Furthermore, they plan to host four different types of esports events throughout the year. These leagues will strengthen the connection between the Chinese and Korean gaming communities. Market Capitalization: N/A
DoubleU Games Investments
DoubleU Games has made 1 investments. Their latest investment was in MAXST as part of their Corporate Minority on March 3, 2022.