South Korea is not an unfamiliar name in the entertainment industry. From K-pop to K-drama, South Korean entertainment companies are making it big in the global market. The Korean gaming industry is no exception. The fourth-largest mobile gaming market has grown approximately 4 times in size from 2007 to 2021. So what companies are contributing most towards these massive numbers? We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 gaming companies in South Korea.
Criteria for ranking
By the end of 2018, around 37, 000 people were working under roughly 880 game development studios in South Korea. These companies also made up 14% of the global PC gaming and 10% of the mobile gaming industries. So you may find it helpful to understand the factors determining the success of a gaming company.
1. Downloads and purchases
Many game developers boast millions of downloads to showcase the popularity of their games. This makes people feel like they might be missing out on something, nudging them to give the game a try. Besides being an effective marketing strategy, these numbers can also indicate how successful a game was and reflect nicely on the game developers.
While most games make money through in-app purchases or in-game ads, users need to pay-to-play some games. If a pay-to-play game has high purchases, it can be a strong indicator of popularity.
2. Reviews and Ratings
While downloads and purchases in millions is usually a green flag, a deeper look into reviews can paint a clearer picture. What other people have to say about the game after experiencing its gameplay and seeing how the game held up to its advertisement can clear many things. For mobile games, you can find these reviews at Google Play and Apple App store while PC games usually have reviews on game engines like Steam or Epic gamers.
Generally, statistics favor South Korean game developers. Google play store gives South Korean games an average of 3.93/5 across 11,114 games, higher than the global average of 3.76.
3. Number of successful games
As we mentioned before, a game’s success can be determined by the number of downloads and the reviews it gets. But in the competitive market of game development, it’s not enough to have a one-hit-wonder to make it to the top. A truly successful company is one with a number of big hits.
Keeping these factors in mind, here’s the list of the top 5 gaming companies:
1. Nexon – Top Gaming Companies of South Korea
Found originally in Seoul in 1994, Nexon is one of the biggest names in the worldwide gaming industry and definitely the biggest in South Korea. It produces games across both PC and mobile games although 74% of their revenue comes from PC games.
The most prominent game to come out of Nexon is Counter-Strike in 2008. With both single-player and multi-player game formats, Counter-strike has become a widely recognized first-person shooter staple game. Other hits produced by Nexon include the Multiplayer mobile strategy game DomiNations, the 2015 MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game) hit Moonlight Blade, and 2018 Mapple story 2, a popular addition to the Mapple story series.
Gravity makes it to this list because it’s among the fastest-growing Korean game industries. It was the PC based MMORPG game Ragnarok online which put Gravity on the grid in 2002. While we did mention that one-hit wonders aren’t a recipe for success, Ragnarok is a smart exception. The publishers built on its success by creating the Ragnarok series with the sequel Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the second and other additions like Ragnarok M: Eternal Love. They also sell the rights of their game characters to other companies and make money indirectly. Most famously, the game series was developed into an animated TV series called Ragnarok the Animation.
Gravity also produces mobile games. Their mobile hits include Tower of Ascension and Ragnarok: Ash volume.
Gravity had a very successful year in 2019, with sales increasing 45.5% from the previous year and a profit margin of 41.5 Million dollars. For 2021, they are directing their focus on promoting Ragnarok Origin.
3. DoubleU Games
Unlike all the other gaming companies producing MMORPG or first-person shooter games, DoubleU games specialize in casino games! The different game format also means they have a different platform for these games. They mainly target Facebook users looking for a casual way to kill time.
Their most successful game, appropriately titled DoubleU Casino, is a mobile-based game available in 120 countries. Other games include Take 5 and Ellen Slot.
NCSoft is another big name in the Korean gaming industry. Its size places it highly even in the international market, especially in the MMORPG category of games.
NCSoft’s prominence comes from a number of hit games. The 4 biggest game series to come out of NCSoft (in order of revenue) are Lineage (2-part series), Guild Wars (2-part series), Blade & Soul, and Aion, with Lineage 1 bringing in a massive 174 Billion won in revenue.
Although 2018 wasn’t a great year for NCSoft as sales dropped 44% from the previous year, it has steadily picked itself up. It was the longevity of the Lineage and Guild war series that sustained NCSoft as players stuck along as the games aged. Lineage 2M was their golden egg, surpassing the sales of its predecessor and bringing in huge revenues. Going into 2021, this series is expected to keep NCSoft afloat.
5. GameEvil Come2Us
Game Evil merged with Come2Us back in 2013 to form GameEvil Com2Us. They specialize in mobile device games and aim to dominate the global market for mobile games.
Soon after the merger, they released their hit game “Summoners War” in 2014. This game would bring them over a Billion dollars in revenue over the next 3 years. With over 40 games, including the much-anticipated show-inspired “The Walking Dead” game, GameEvil Come2Us is a strong contender in our top 5 list.
In conclusion, the gaming industry of South Korea is extremely competitive. With hundreds of different companies currently working and more projected to start up in 2021, South Korea is a strong force in the worldwide gaming industry. Making it to the top is no easy task.