Korea is generally called the home ground of eSports. While professional gaming has gained popularity across the globe, it all began in South Korea in the 1990s. When the country was struggling financially, its government invested in technology and internet infrastructure in particular. Broadband became widely available. There was also a rise in new TV stations and networks due to easily accessible technology. Some TV networks noticed the popularity of gaming and began broadcasting some tournaments- nudging eSports to the mainstream. A partnership between developers at Blizzard and the government led to StarCraft events and tournaments. Television networks started broadcasting the Brood War competitions. From gaming rooms to hotel ballrooms and large stadiums, StarCraft became the esports juggernaut. Therefore, some of the most popular esports in Korea these days are very similar to the one that started it all.
We have listed the top 3 titles in Korea, according to their popularity (hours played) in PC Bangs:
League of Legends
The MOBA title by Riot Games, League of Legends, has rapidly grown popular since its release. You can judge how popular this game must be, not only in Korea but the entire world, from the 2013 World Championship at the Staples Center getting sold out.
The game involves player-controlled champions, who band together to defeat other teams by destroying their Nexus structures. This game has been the basis for various regional tournaments in Korea.
With the LoL Championship Series organized by Riot Games and other organizations establishing tournaments, the prize money and viewership associated with this game is generally in millions.
While the game has been popular in the PC Bangs of South Korea for years, new numbers show how it continues to be a top favorite. Interpret, a market research firm, utilized data provided by Gametrics to release their first PC Bang research brief in June 2019. The stats show that League of Legends makes up for nearly 40% of engagement in South Korea’s PC cafes.
This game quickly became a global phenomenon when it was first released, attracting more than 7 million players in the first week. However, its release hit the PC Bangs of Busan and Seoul with an even stronger force.
Overwatch eventually became one of the most popular esports in Korea. It claimed 13% of popularity in PC Bangs (according to the total hours played) in the first week. League of Legends bore the brunt and experienced a drop of 14.66% in playtime.
In the next several weeks, the first-person shooter game steadily took over the market more and more. Ultimately, it overtook League between June and November 2016. It was the first game in around four years to do so.
PlayerUnknown’s Battle Ground
This multiplayer royale game became a hit instantly after its launch, propelling Bluehole (now named Krafton) onto the world stage. To put it into perspective: PUBG pre-release sales achieved a hundred million dollars in only 79 days.
The popularity of PlayerUnknown’s Battle Ground has since inspired hundreds of such “battle royale” online games- where over a hundred players try to defeat each other to be the last one standing. Fortnite is a notable example of a game inspired by PUBG.
In South Korea, gaming is more than a hobby or a “pastime”- its a dream job for a lot of people and a roadway to celebrity status. The games mentioned above rack up thousands of fanatics every year in huge stadiums who come together to watch eSports tournaments and championships.