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Korean Mobile Gaming Market to Hit $3.6 Billion

Explore the dynamic landscape of Korea's mobile gaming market in 2023. From record-breaking revenues to RPG dominance, discover the key trends shaping the industry, with insights for web3.

Eliza Crichton-Stuart author picture}

Eliza Crichton-Stuart

Head of Operations

Sensor Tower Mobile Gaming Korea.jpg

In 2023, Korea stands as a powerhouse in global mobile gaming, with the market experiencing a remarkable surge in revenue. According to recent data from Sensor Tower, mobile game in-app purchase revenue in the Korean market is anticipated to reach nearly $3.6 billion, with overseas manufacturers claiming over 40% of this lucrative sector. In this article, we unpick the latest trends and give insights as to why these findings are significant for web3 gaming.

Sensor Tower Mobile Gaming Korea.jpg

The resilience of the Korean mobile gaming market is evident, with in-app purchase revenue still exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Despite the challenges posed by the epidemic, the market recorded a peak revenue of $5.9 billion in 2021. Notably, revenue for the first three quarters of 2023 remains robust at nearly $3.6 billion, indicating a 24% increase compared to the same period in 2019. Projections for the full year suggest a total revenue of $4.8 billion, highlighting the market's enduring strength.

Mobile Gaming Korea

RPG mobile games maintain their dominance, capturing a substantial 58% of the total mobile game revenue in the Korean market. With RPGs attracting over $2 billion in the first three quarters of 2023, the genre continues to be a driving force in the country's gaming landscape. Strategy games claim the second spot, contributing $420 million and constituting 12% of the overall revenue.  

RPGs Korea Mobile Gaming

NCSOFT's MMORPG mobile game, "Lineage M," leads the revenue charts, approaching an impressive $300 million. Meanwhile, Wemade's "Night Crows" emerges as a dark horse, securing $130 million in local market revenue, making it a notable performer in terms of revenue growth. 

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From January to September 2023, the overseas market revenue of NEXON's "Blue Files" and "MapleStory: M" reached $190 million and $100 million respectively leading the Korean mobile game overseas market. Netmarble Games' diverse portfolio, including mobile card and board games like "Jackpot World™" and IP mobile games such as "Marvel Fighting: Clash of Champions," positions the company within the top ten of overseas revenue earners.

Results of South Korean companies on global markets.jpg

Another notable mention is Netmarble Games' strategic investment of over $40 million in advertising from January to September 2023, specifically targeting the US market. This substantial investment underscores their commitment to maintaining a leading position in the highly competitive US gaming landscape.

Netmarble Games.jpg

In a fascinating twist, Korea emerged as a crucial market for Chinese mobile games seeking overseas success. Among the top 100 best-selling Korean mobile games, 42% of revenue is attributed to overseas game sales, with a significant 28% originating from Chinese publishers.

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Titles like MiHoYo's "Genshin Impact" and Sanqi Interactive Entertainment's "Devil M" prove to be particularly successful, securing spots in the top ten revenue-generating overseas mobile games in South Korea.

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Relevance to Web3 Gaming

WEMIX, a subsidiary of the South Korean gaming giant Wemade discussed above, recently announced its partnership with Chainlink Labs. The collaboration signifies Wemade's strategic move to reshape the web3 gaming landscape. At the core of this partnership is the integration of Chainlink's Cross-Chain Interoperability Protocol (CCIP) into the Unagi omnichain ecosystem. 

Wemade, WEMIX, Cainlink

Another example is "MapleStory M”, the MMORPG developed by Nexon and NSC, which achieved remarkable success since its launch in October 2016. Fast forward to September 2023, and this mobile sensation has clocked an impressive $600 million in cumulative sales, with one significant milestone that has the industry buzzing: a staggering $55 million in just 35 days after entering the highly competitive Chinese market.

Maplestory M.jpg

Nexon is one of the world’s largest game publishers having revolutionized the industry when it pioneered the free-to-play business model over two decades ago. Now, its flagship MapleStory franchise is being ushered into the world of web3.

MapleStory Universe will be a Virtual World ecosystem where various games and applications made in MapleStory interact with NFTs. All NFTs are owned by each user and can be traded and transferred between users within the MapleStory Universe. Here is a breakdown of what players can expect moving forward:

  • MapleStory N is the evolution of the original “MapleStory” infused with blockchain technology and NFTs to define a new MMORPG experience.
  • MapleStory N Mobile is the blockchain version of “MapleStory Mobile” that allows players to enjoy MapleStory NFTs on their phones.
  • MapleStory N Worlds is a sandbox platform where players can participate as creators as well to build various blockchain games.
  • MapleStory N SDK is a set of tools that will enable developers and creators to make their own apps and realize new ideas beyond games.
maplestory universe.jfif

MapleStory Universe is not trying to reinvent MapleStory with web3. Rather, the focus is on how they can make MapleStory even more fun to play. MapleStory is a game that has been live for 20 years now using web3 the team plans to focus on enhancing the core fun experience, which they call the 'reward experience.' The team says that blockchain and NFTs can maximize the reward experience of MapleStory. 

Final thoughts

The 2023 report on Korea's mobile gaming market not only highlights the region's robust revenue growth and genre preferences but also underscores its significance as a key market for international players, especially Chinese mobile game developers. Both Wemade and NEXON making moves into web3 is encouraging.

As the gaming industry continues to evolve, this data becomes increasingly relevant to the realm of web3 gaming, providing valuable insights for stakeholders navigating the dynamic landscape of decentralized gaming ecosystems.


Industry ReportsNews

updated:

February 20th 2024

posted:

November 12th 2023

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