What’s the big deal with XML?

XML (eXtensible Markup Language) is one of those initialisms that remains in the background of the tech industry. It pops up in almost every major office software suite (did you ever wonder what the x stands for in .docx?). It shows up all the websites that use XHTML (about 34% of the websites out there) and each RSS feed that you read. And, if you know any technical writers, they probably won’t shut up about DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture).

So, what makes XML so special? Well, the answer depends on who you are and how you use XML. Writers like XML because it gives them full control of their text. Developers like XML because they can easily repurpose content. And, designers like it because they can apply stylistic changes on the fly. But, before we explain these benefits in too much detail, we should probably explain what XML is.

What is XML?

XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language. Like HTML, XML is a markup language. Markup is the information that tells a computer how to read content, such as text. For example, this website uses HTML markup (actually, a combination of HTML, CSS, PHP, and Markdown) to tell your web browser where to display text, what font to use, and when to display a word in bold. Without some sort of markup, it would be almost impossible for your computer to properly display content in web browsers, desktop publishing programs, or even applications like games.

Unlike HTML, XML focuses on what the data is rather than how the data looks. That is, the markup in XML tells the computer the content type, and a separate style sheet tells the computer how to display the content. In HTML, the markup only tells the computer how to display the content. So, if you want to change the font in all of the headings on your HTML webpage, you have to change each one individually. In XML, you can simply change the entry that specifies the heading font in the style sheet.

Another notable difference is that XML doesn’t use predefined tags (tags are units of markup). HTML markup is the same everywhere. So, if you use an <h1> tag in HTML, an HTML reader automatically knows that it is a top-level heading. In XML, a style sheet is needed to define the tag, but you can also name the tag anything you want. For example, you could name it <section_heading>, <page_heading>, or even <the_only_heading_you_will_ever_need>. This is what puts the eXtensible in eXtensible Markup Language (XML), and you can create as many tags as you want – which means that you can make your content as nuanced or lightweight as you need.

So, why is XML so great?

Extensibility

XML emerged as a response to the inflexibility and inefficiency of HTML. The standard on which XML is based, SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), was deemed too complex, so XML was made to simplify it. XML ditches the unnecessary elements of SGML while still retaining the key principles that the markup needs to describe the content. By abandoning predetermined tags and unnecessary elements and allowing content creators the flexibility to create their own tags, XML offers a lightweight and flexible solution for transporting information, especially text.

Extensibility also makes XML easier to use and maintain than other markup languages. Authors can intuitively name tags based on their functions. Consider the following example.

< ?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> 


  
    Dear Mr. Hughes,
  
  
    I so enjoyed your last film and do hope that you make another.
  

Based on the names used in the tags, you can infer the basic structure of the document and the type of content that each tag contains. Furthermore, you or a new employee could return to this document several years down the road and still figure out what the tags mean.

Strictness

XML is also far stricter than HTML. The rigid syntax required by XML results in smaller, faster, and lighter browsers. For example, XML is stricter than HTML in the following cases:

  • Case sensitivity: HTML is not case sensitive, while XML is.
    A <Paragraph> tag is not the same as a <paragraph> tag.

  • End tags: HTML lets you get away with not closing elements, while XML doesn’t.
    A <p> tag won’t work without the corresponding end tag (</p>).

  • Quotation marks: HTML lets you use value delimiters without quotation marks, while XML doesn’t.
    <object width=100> won’t work, but <object width=”100”> will.

  • Nesting: HTML lets you overlap elements, while XML doesn’t.
    <b><i>Cattle</b></i> won’t work, but <b><i>Cattle</i></b>.

In the past, some Internet browsers devoted up to 50% of their code to correct the mistakes or inconsistencies in HTML content. By imposing a more rigid set of rules, browsers and other programs that process text (often called parsers) no longer need to account for mistakes in the markup. Paying a little more attention when writing is a small price to pay for better overall performance.

In addition to being strict about syntax, XML can also include rules about the structure of your documents. For example, if you were creating an employee database, you could create an <employee> element that must contain <first_name> and <last_name> elements. Doing so ensures that the required information is included and that all unnecessary information, such as an employee number, is excluded.

Easy Data Exchange

Although extensibility and simplicity added to its early success, XML’s greatest claim to fame is that it allows authors to easily publish the same content to different media. Because XML concentrates only on the content type, the content remains independent of the medium. So, authors can write and edit a document in XML and publish it to a website, user’s manual, and helpdesk script. This facet of the XML is often touted as single-source – multi-target. In fact, content reuse has catapulted DITA, an XML standard maintained by OASIS Technical Committee, to the forefront of the technical writing world.

Furthermore, XML relies on free open standards, such as the XML 1.0 Specification, so it avoids the bulk, complexity, and inaccessibility of propriety data formats, such as those used in the older versions of desktop publishing applications like Word. XML content and markup is stored as text that authors can configure directly. Even when using an XML editor, such as FrameMaker, authors can still output the XML text to make changes or transfer the content to another format.

Conclusion

So, back to the question at hand: What makes XML so special? Well, it’s right there in the name: extensibility. Writers and developers are constantly finding new ways to use XML to accomplish their goals in a variety of media formats, and XML supports the freedom they need to do it. That, coupled with its ability to be intuitive and strict in both code and structure and easily distributed to multiple channels means that XML will continue to be a staple of the IT community for years to come.

Korean Startups

The startup culture is slowly starting to spread from its locus in the Silicon Valley. It’s even reached the CJK countries (China Japan Korea), which were locations infamous for their general disregard of startups as a legitimate source of business.

Below is a collection of excerpts that summarize this nascent trend in Korea:

WSJ: Next Wave of Startups in Korea

That’s no longer a problem. So far this year, venture-capital investment in Korea’s tech industry has reached $198 million, more than four times that of 2012, according to the Asian Venture Capital Journal. That is a much more dramatic rate of growth than in the larger neighboring countries of Japan and China even though in value terms, it still lags Japan’s $370 million and China’s $3.3 billion.

4x growth, much of it government sponsored as seen by this next quote:

Through one program, called TIPS, or Tech Incubator Program for Startups, South Korea’s Small and Medium Business Administration magnifies startup investments made by venture capitalists whose firms have won designation as qualified investors. For example, if an investor makes a $10,000 investment, the government can pitch in with a five-fold grant of $50,000 — up to a maximum of $500,000.

These sorts of private/public investment combinations have led to a lot of competition for government grants.

Venture Beat: Meet Korea’s Unicorns

Some learnings from the Korean Unicorn Club:

  • Korea is good at software: Many have said that Korea is only good at hardware (think Samsung and LG). However, the data we have gathered shows that that is simply not the case. Koreans have proven they can make good software with great monetization.
  • Gaming is clearly a Korean specialty: Four out of the 10 unicorns are gaming companies (Com2us, NC Soft, Nexon and Smile Gate)

Though this article muddles the line between a startup and the idea of an “established” company, it does neatly summarize the hot spots in the new Korean economy. Games are a big part of this: some of the more recent stars in this field are Fincon and 4:33, companies we will discuss in more detail in later post.

The interesting thing is that these game companies, of which there are rumored to be over 2000 with Korea, have been able to deliver strong performance without a clear strategy for the Western market. Instead, global strategy for Korean game companies focus mostly on South East Asia, China and Japan, as these markets have proven to be fertile fields for growth. Companies that do do well in the West, such as Com2us, have large regional branches located stateside that help smooth the cultural differences between Korea and the West.

Korean companies that don’t have the funds to create their own branch and still wish to reach out to the Western market are often left in a state of befuddlement. At Latis Global, we have expanded our services to include Western-facing global strategy, to not only help these companies reach the west but also to create a standardized, proven process for Western expansion. It’s still a work in progress, but we expect to create and share case studies in the near future. Stay tuned!

-Daniel So

dan.seo@latisglobal.com

Language Comparison: English vs Korean

Localization, or L10n, (or translation), may not be the most glamorous of topics, but it is an important one. After all, even the most gloriously minimalist UX will still require some sort of help text, and heaven help the RPG game that suffers from a poor translation job. With that in mind, we’ve decided to introduce a new Translation Tips series that draws from our 10+ years of experience as a localization firm. Today’s post covers a particularly ornery language pairing, Korean to English.

Some things to realize about the Korean language:

Characters are extremely dense compared to English. Each character in Korean can contain up to 3 consonants and 1 vowel. Often, 1 single character is sufficient to serve as a word, or at least carry over a meaning of a word.

Upshot: that you’ll find that KR games have menus and other UI that are packed with meaning, even though they don’t take much space! When translated to English, you’ll get a lot of text that “spills” out of their designated UI boxes.

In Korean, a single character can be taken from an adjective and smashed together with a character from another adjective, then fusing them into a single word. As an example, let’s take two adjectives — ‘beautiful’ and ‘frightening’ — and see how English and Korean combine them, respectively. In Korean there are many cases where the two words are split in half, and then combined together so that it would form a new word, ‘beautfright’. Meanwhile, in English a suffix is added to ‘frightening’ so that it modifies ‘beautiful’, and the two are used together like so “the view from above is frighteningly beautiful”.

Upshot: For Korean games, this allows for a ton of depth to be added to something as simple as item names. You’ll often find 3 to 4 adjectives describing something like a sword in the case of an RPG. When translated to English, it’s very possible that a word that only took 5 characters in Korean can turn out like this: Radiant Shimmering Glory Valor Sword. 

Finally, Korean is a language that has an abundance of adjectives but a shortage of verbs. Korean’s verbs are, for the most part, very simple, and on their own do not connote much more beyond a simple action. To add depth, adjectives are used as adverbs to modify the verb. As an example, let’s take the word “strive” from English. In Korean, the best way to say “strive’ would be to take the verb “do” and combine it with “mightily”.

Upshot: Many times, a KR>EN translator will have trouble finding an English verb that encapsulates the meaning of the adjective + simple noun combination that shows up in Korean. Thus, they will translate it just as they see it, which can cause for some clunky sentences. AND once the text has been translated from KR to EN, there will often be length issues since Korean is much more condensed than English. So to make the translated EN text fit in its designated box, a translator may go back and remove the verb modifiers. This makes sense in terms of UI, but it can cause for some extremely boring phrasing!

What can one do to remedy these issues? We’ll go into this in more depth in later posts, but here are some quick, actionable steps for KR to EN translation projects:

  1. Get your developers and UX people ready, because there’s gonna be a lot of enlarging that needs to take place.
  2. Give you translation partner the license to be creative. There will be many times when an adjective or three will need to be deleted, and an editorial decision needs to be made as to which remains.
  3. Check for boring verbs!

That’s it for today. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at dan.seo@latisglobal.com.

Daniel So

Game Spotlight: Spirit Sweeper – The Minesweeper-based RPG for Mobile!

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For most people, Minesweeper, recalls images of the mid-90s.  The game was arguably the hardest of the prepackaged Windows games that helped so many bored office workers pass slow afternoons behind cubical walls. It might not be anybody’s most favorite game, but it does have a certain nostalgia.

That nostalgia is what Seoul-based developer Wispsoft is banking on in their upcoming minesweeper-inspired mobile game, Spirit Sweeper. And they’re hoping that nostalgia will encourage people to support the game on Kickstarter.

SpiritSweeper_Wispsoft

Taking place in a fantasy world of golems, witches, and knights, players can unlock and choose from eight different characters to conquer their friends and battle internet strangers for sweeper supremacy. But rather than attempting to avoid mines, the objective of Spirit Sweeper is to go head-to-head against other players and be the first to discover 10 spirit stones. Like minesweeper, each number revealed indicates how many stones are near that tile.

SpiritSweeper2

Wispsoft has set a modest goal of reaching $5,000 in crowdfunding which will contribute to finishing the last leg of development as well as develop an additional story mode. Fans of the classic minesweeper will find themselves with a great new update to the game and lovers of casual titles like Candy-Crush and Bejeweled will find themselves right at home.

Check out the Kickstarter page and contribute!

 

Steam Updates Storefront: Is Discovery the Key for Mobile?

Steam-Logo

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Steam’s slogan for its new update says it all: A Smarter Storefront. Personalized Just For You.

The update introduces a “smarter” homepage that recommends games based on past purchases, what you’ve been playing, and friends’ recommendations. While this type of personalized targeting has been widely popular with music and video platforms like Netflix and iTunes, the game industry has been slow to follow suit. Steam’s new update may be the push we need towards better discovery tools in a saturated content industry. 

In the past nine months alone, over 1,300 new titles have been added to Steam, which brought the total catalog to over 3,700 games. For indie devs with little to no money to spend on advertising, getting page traffic was difficult to say the least. By far the most interesting feature of the new update is the ability to follow “curators”. Curators can be any individual or organization with an opinion on games and wants to share them. Steam’s curator pages now offer a place to organize these recommendations and following a curator will also send their recommendations to your homepage. To become a curator, you need to create a group, or already be an officer or moderator in a group.

 

After less than a week, the update has been having a big impact as one Gamezone article notes:

Developers have been very open about how the update has affected them, taking to both their blogs and Twitter accounts to reveal the changes they’ve seen on their Steam Store Pages. Andrew Spearin, the Creative Director at New World Interactive took to his blog to reveal the affects of Steam’s Discovery Update on Insurgency (a tactical FPS). Spearin cited how much trafficInsurgency‘s Steam Store Page received prior to the update and post update, here are the numbers:

  • Sunday: 5,800 (pre-update)
  • Monday: 21,500 (post update)
  • Tuesday: 83,284 (post update)

While he did admit that the game was recommended by prominent figures (and Curators) in the gaming world, the spike in people visiting the store page is obvious. If you’re wondering just how visible Insurgency has become on Steam due to the update, the figure is “370% over night.” Spearin is not the only one discussing the potential that Steam’s update has allowed for indie devs.

Curating on mobile

If 3,700 games to sift through seems like a lot, consider that the Google Play Store now has 1,500,000 live apps. Even if only 1% of that were high quality games worth playing, that would still be a whopping 15,000 titles to sort through. With more apps added every day, discovery on both Andriod and iOS is becoming difficult for studios on shoestring budgets. So could a curator model much like Steam introduced be the answer? Korea has been experimenting with that very idea for a while now.

Afreeca TV is a popular video streaming service, though it is not well known outside of Korea. Given that live streaming popular online games like League of Legends and Starcraft are by far the most popular streams on the platform, it made sense when Afreeca TV dipped their feet into the mobile gaming pool last year with the introduction of the Gamecenter.

afreecatv1

 

Broadcasting Jockeys, known by the unfortunate acronym BJs, create “clans” where they can live stream their favorite mobile games, and even play with their fans. Their audience can reward them by buying “chocolate”, a premium currency on the platform that can be exchanged for items in the store, and even real cash. Users, in turn, earn chocolate by downloading games, making in-app purchases, and participating in the platform in other ways.

So far the platform is quite small and experimental, with just 178,000 Gamecenter subscribers, but engagement levels are high with the average user playing 5.5 games on the platform.

Is this the next move for Google and Apple?

With such great results for video and music services, and impressive possibilities being explored by Steam, could this be the future for mobile gaming as well?  This would work particularly well in Korea where word of mouth from trend-setting power-bloggers is a powerful marketing channel. Do you think this would work on a scale as big as Google Play and Apple? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think!

Korea Guide: Apple vs. Google Play

Google-Play-02

Google-Play-02

Previously we took a look at the T Store and how it houses the largest number of apps in Korea. We also briefly talked about how the three carriers of SKT, LG U + and KT Olleh used to be the gatekeepers when it came to deciding what games would be featured in their stores. The emergence of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store changed this, creating a new open market where developers could bypass the the gatekeepers.

 

Out of all the platforms and store discussed so far, The Apple App Store and Google Play Store are most likely the most familiar to western developers. This already offers an advantage as the submission process and guidelines for each store are largely the same as their western counterparts. Despite the familiarity of each app store, the mobile game environment in Korea is different than in west and understanding how each store operates in this environment is essential.

 

Apple vs. The Samsung Factor

 

To anyone with an even casual knowledge of mobile devices, it should come as no surprise that Samsung devices reign supreme in Korea. 92% of all mobile phone sales in Korea belonged to the Samsung brand with their market share accounting for 63%. LG comes in second place with 22% leaving Pantech Co. with 7%.

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This leaves Apple in last place with a 6% market share. This has contributed to a smaller Apple presence in Korea, where iPhone release dates are staggered, coming out months after their release in other countries (the first iPhone released in 2009, years after its initial release in the US)  and a lack of official Apple Retail Stores in Korea, with only smaller authorized stores selling Apple products.

 

Apple has had a long, tremulous relationship with both Korea and Google. While there was some speculation that due to stricter regulatory procedures with electromagnetic compatibility and emission levels, many cite Samsung’s presence for being the reason that Apple has trouble in Korea. South Korean regulators stalled the release of the iPhone in Korea long after its release in nearly every other country worldwide. The same regulators held a ban on games being sold on the Korean App Store, blocking them from being distributed until 2011 and requiring a developer’s full name and personal information in 2013.

 

It is entirely possible that Apple sees Korea as less of a priority than other countries due to its smaller user base and strong competition from a country that is a bastion for Android-first development.  When compared to nearby Japan where Apple has a 17% market share, putting it in second place behind  local brand Sony, this makes even more sense.

 

All these factors combined have led to a significantly different app store in Korea compared to the one most developers are familiar with. The number of downloads for games is significantly less than with Google Play and even lesser when compared to the previously mentioned T Store and mobile messaging platforms Kakao and Line. According to the App Annie statistics for September 23rd,  the top ten grossing games on the Apple App Store, seven of the games were for Kakao while two other title was published by publishers Com2Us and Machine Zone Inc. and the highest grossing title being Clash of Clans.

 

While you have exceptions like Kakao whose rule states that publishers must develop for both Android and iOS software, the game market features more non-Korean developed titles than Google Play with publishers like EA and Gameloft being featured in the top 50, where on Google Play, a majority of western developed titles don’t even break the top 100.

Google Play: Home of the Indies

 

The Google Play Store has experienced slow and steady growth since its initial release. It experienced a 6.3% growth of revenue in 2012 that has since continued to remain steady. Throughout its existence, while never reaching the large number of downloads that Kakao achieved, it has remained a dedicated store for apps and games and also allowing smaller developers the chance to have their games published. Google, like Apple has also had difficult time in Korea. Trying to establish its web services has been a losing battle against Naver and while its Google Play store enjoyed a period of success along with the Apple App Store, it has recently begun pushing for game distribution without platforms like Kakao and Line.

 

Google in Korea is divided into four groups: Google Cloud, Google Play, Google Indie and Google Developer Relations Department. Despite being different from one another, all four groups are available to game developers wanting to use their services. Of these four services, the most commonly used service by developers when publishing games is Google Play.

 

Like the Apple App Store, Google Play hosts a selection of games and apps, including games for Kakao. Looking at the App Annie statistics reveals another selection of the ten highest grossing games on Google Play are titles for Kakao, with the highest grossing being a Kakao game, bumping Clash of Clans to the number 2 spot.

 

Despite hosting games from Kakao and Line, Google Play has recently begun making attempts to surpass both of them by contacting individual publishers in Korea and offering them incentives to directly develop and launch through Google Play. This can allow both major and smaller developers the chance to create both localized and foreign versions of games simultaneously.

 

Google Play has a role of a gateway, taking 30% of the total cost of game to publish through its platform, even if the game is meant for another platform. With both Line and Kakao attempting to create their own networks and mobile SNS services attempting to build their own game platforms, this holds the potential to upset the distribution channel of mobile games. While the current environment has most games being downloaded through Google Play, Kakao and Line’s decision to move away from Google means a extreme drop in Google’s profits.

 

While the decision to pursue game companies and developers may seem ineffective in the current Korean market, the opportunities it can provide to developers is increasingly attractive for newcomers in the market. By making this decision, it can be appealing to developers outside of Korea where separate mobile gaming channels outside of Kakao are not yet established. In theory, Google working with publishers to create both local and Korean versions of games at the development stage would allow developers to have a much easier time entering the Korean market.

Buff Knight, a Korean Indie supported by Google.

Buff Knight, a Korean Indie supported by Google.

One example of this is Google Indie, which in early 2014 was able to help smaller developer and indie studios publish and launch their games through their services. According to a report by the Korea Herald, this was considered a shocking blow to major publishers, showing that Google was willing and invested to helping smaller studios find the same level of success as their larger counterparts. By doing this Google has sent a clear message to the Korean market that indie titles are important and that the key to finding success doesn’t always belong to the major publishers and platforms.

 

Publishing for Each Store: What You Already Know

 

Apple and Google opened the door for a more open game market in Korea, giving a level platform for anyone who wished to make a game. Along with having the same submission and publishing procedures as their western stores, this made it easier for developers wanting to break into the Korean market, using a system they were already familiar with. Once Kakao entered the scene, this once again changed the industry. shifting away success from stores to messaging platforms.

 

For western developers, both Apple and Google Play still offer benefits to those not familiar with Korean platforms and the process required to publish on them. While few games ever achieve the level of success Kakao titles do, they are moderate successes in their own right and allow smaller publishers to have their chance to have their games published against the major publishers within the industry.

No Kakao? No Problem: The Pros and Cons of Korea’s Alternative Game Platforms

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Whenever someone asks me about the Korean market,  the question of Kakao is usually top of their list. But what many don’t know is that the Korean mobile market is more than just Kakao. There are a number of great platforms for releasing your games, each with their own pros and cons. We put together an overview of the top three alternative gaming platforms in Korea. Check it out and share with your friends!

Gaming-Platforms-Korea

#GamerGate: What about Asia?

Chinajoy1

tropesvwomen

Just when you think the flames of #GamerGate might be dying down, something fans them once again. Two days ago, The Escapists #GamerGate forums were brought down under a DDOS attack. If you don’t know what #GamerGate is, this Vox.com article puts it succinctly:

 

Like all hashtags, #GamerGate has come to mean about 500 different things to thousands of different people. But at its heart, it’s about two topics:

1) The treatment of women in gaming: The start of the story (which is actually the latest permutation of a long-evolving firestorm) came in late August after indie game developer Zoe Quinn and critic Anita Sarkeesian were both horribly, horribly harassed online. The same harassment was later lobbed at award-winning games journalist Jenn Frank and fellow writer Mattie Brice. Both Frank and Brice say they will no longer write about games. The FBI is looking into harassment of game developers.

2) Ethics in games journalism: Some argue that the focus on harassment distracts from the real issue, which is that indie game developers and the online gaming press have gotten too cozy. There’s also a substantial, vocal movement that believes the generally left-leaning online gaming press focuses too much on feminism and the role of women in the industry, to the detriment of coverage of games. (One of the sites mentioned in this debate is Vox’s sister site, Polygon.)

The #GamerGate issue has largely been focused in the US and Western markets and hasn’t really affected the Asian scene. In terms of journalist ethics, the enitre media industry runs differently in much of Asia and is held to different standards and understandings than in the west. And though the issue of women and video games in Asia is mentioned, the arguments are soft-spoken and often fly in the face of what most PC individuals would consider acceptable.

For example, the Vietnamese game company VTC recently hired women to wear “3kg” signs drawn on their chests in a marketing campaign. Games in Asia picked up the story:

Given gaming’s already negative reputation in Vietnam, this is just another move that suggests publishers have no shame when they are trying to market their games. Many other game sites in Vietnam also need this kind of content to pull in more traffic. Quan Nguyen, CEO of Game4v, said that content like this can easily pull in one million views in one night. On the other hand, a good review video would get only a thousand. Most of these sites survive on advertising, which means they need more traffic to make more money. In other words, breasts are keeping these sites alive.

There is also the fact that at nearly every major Asian game conference the issue of “booth babes”, girls that model in cosplay or scantly clad outfits for major brands, is brought to light. This is perhaps most prevalent at Chinese game shows.

Chinajoy1

But issues of gender and gaming go beyond the models in Asia. Earlier this year the South Korean based International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) stirred up controversy over gender-equality when they announced that the Hearthstone competition would be male only. 

A Male Dominated Space?


At the heart of this argument is an oft cited statistic that women now make up 52% of “gamers.”  While that might be true, as pointed out in the video above, that number undoubtedly coincides with the bloom of mobile gaming. Mobile is arguably a more casual platform very unlike the console and PC titles that have defined the “gamer” moniker for so long. Hardcore games like League of Legends and Halo still cater to a predominantly male audience, and its likely that this pattern will continue.

And that’s ok.

If core games don’t appeal to the majority of a particular gender, that doesn’t mean the industry should change them so that they do (and given how well they are selling, its doubtful they will). But that doesn’t mean that gamers need to take a hard-line, hate mongering stance against their female critics.

 

That seems to be the status quo as far as Korea and the rest of North East Asia are concerned. Women are neither rejected from participating (think ToSsGirl, the famous professional Starcraft player), nor does the industry accommodate anything that resembles Western feminist ideals.

 

Tell us what you think

Although by Western standards the Asian game scene has a long way to go, it has so far functioned without much loud criticism. In fact most critics of gaming in Asia come from the concerned parents who are more worried about their children becoming addicted to games than they are about female representations of sexuality.

Is this an acceptable model as long as everyone is quiet and happy? Leave a comment and tell us what you think about #GamerGate and the Asian game industry.

Game Spotlight: Mobile MOBA League of Masters Coming Soon

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For hardcore gamers that love 16 hour DOTA sessions and weekend LAN benders, mobile has rarely offered anything worth a look. The Apple showcase last week showcased the first game that may really change all that with Super Evil Megacorp’s Vain Glory. But companies in Asia have already been working on bringing core, MOBA-style games to tablets. Korean-based developers, AppCross, are throwing their hat in the ring with their upcoming title, League of Masters. 

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The free-to-play title expands on the lessons learned from AppCross’ first mobile MOBA, Soul of Legends, improving on many of the mistakes made in the first of the series.

To start, rather than a map with a single lane, the League of Masters map has two lanes and a jungle. Each lane has three towers to destroy before reaching the nexus. The jungle includes two minion camps and a crystal, which when destroyed spawns a Cerberus for your team. The Cerberus minion is much larger and stronger than all other minions. It will stay in your lane until killed by the enemy, and can only be brought back by destroying the jungle crystal. But the most exciting features of the game are in the new multi-player options.

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Players can now opt between three different PVP modes: 1 v 1, 2 v 2, or 3 v 3. League of Masters features voice chat for quick communication with teammates. There is also a clan system and e-sports mode for truly competitive players that want flaunt their MOBA dominance.

Rather than selling runes and skins, League of Masters takes a new approach to monetization. Players can purchase skins that come with stat boosts. The game is not slated for release until the end of 2014, but its one that MOBA fans should definitely look out for as the year winds down.

Send a tweet and spread the word about League of Masters!  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news on great indie games from Korea!

 

Korea Guide: Releasing Your Games in Carrier Stores

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For the last two weeks, we’ve talked about mobile platforms like Kakao and Line, two messaging apps that went on to become highly successful platforms that succeeded through games. This week we take a look at another marketplace in Korea, that despite not being mentioned as much as their more popular peers, are still important retail channels that warrant a look for developers looking for an alternative in Korea.

 

The Big Three

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Korea has three major telecoms to choose from: SK Telecom, KT and LG U Plus. The combined three operators have a subscription base of over 30 million users and a near 108% penetration rate. This makes Korea one of the first connected device markets in the world to achieve saturation. Along with mobile services each of the three provide a variety of other services including internet, phone and TV services. While each of the three companies are among the top grossing and most successful companies in Korea, SK Telecom is the most successful in the mobile market, with nearly 50% of the market share.

These three telecoms, provide mobile services along with other multimedia options for their users such as music, movies and apps. Kakao may have taken the crown as the most popular platform for games and other media, each of the services’ own app stores offer their own intriguing differences and advantages.

 

The T Store

After launching in 2009, SKT’s T Store set out to offer a place for developers and publishers to have a open mobile marketplace and as a result ended up becoming the first mobile open market in Korea. Calling themselves a “clean open market”, this means that anyone is free to submit a idea proposal and as long as the contents are not deemed illegal or harmful by an outside approval committee such as the Game Rating Board, can move forward with the approval process.

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SK Telecom’s T Store

 

Along with publishing, distributing games on the T Store is also a more open process. Other application stores provide applications for smart phones and mobile devices based on their own platform. Regardless of the type of device or carrier the user has, they are still able to use and access the T Store and all of its 1.5 million contents, which according to Flurry’s 2013 report on South Korea, 96% of which are free. With this in mind, the T Store currently has 22 million subscribers of which 12 million are monthly active users, making it largest app store in Korea.

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SK Telecom’s T Store

The T Store also utilizes its own mobile payment system called T Cash. With T Cash, users can be used for app purchases as well as real world transactions like train and taxi fare. Nearly 54% of app purchases from the T Store are made with T Cash.T Store also allows other forms of payment including credit card payment and charging purchases to a existing phone bill.

For developers interested in putting a game on the T Store, they are invited to sign up at the T Store Development Center. Those planning on selling a game on the store have to pay a yearly registration fee, where the money paid for the fee goes towards the assistance of covering the cost of the development and verification of contents. SKT also offers digital rights management to protect developers from piracy. Developers can choose to use drm offered through SK, or any other form they wish to use.

The developers set the price of the game they wish to publish and are allowed to keep 70% of revenue with the remaining 30% going to SKT as a commission for infrastructure upgrades and marketing.

Since May 2010, SKT has opened the T Store to all three wireless carriers in Korea, letting customers interact and download content from the T Store regardless of their carrier. A month after opening the service, the number of LG U + and KT subscribers was around 7,000. This number grew to a reported 300,000 subscribers by September 2011 and crossed the 3 million subscriber milestone in 2013.

By opening its doors, the T Store has become the largest mobile content market in Korea. The store currently has 400,000 contents consisting of games, apps, VOD, e books, music and coupons. The most popular items sold on the T Store are games. According to Flurry’s analysis on the South Korean mobile market, 68% of their revenue comes from games and game related apps. On average, revenue from games generated about ₩5,657 (U.S. $5.27) per user per month compared to an overall average of ₩3,135 (U.S. $2.92) per user per month in revenue across all other forms of digital content for all customers. T Store not only includes games exclusive to their marketplace, but games from LG U +, KT and Kakao as well.

 

LG U + and KT Application Store: The Soft Launch Stores

Since becoming available with all three carriers, the popularity of LG’s and KT’s app store has diminished with a majority of subscribers using either T Store or platforms like Kakao. For developers looking to publish a title on a marketplace, both LG and KT are inconsequential when it comes to finding a dedicated users base. However, thats not to say that both stores aren’t without their uses. For the savvy developer, both stores can function as a way of soft launching your game allowing developers to beta test and fine tune their games before releasing a revised and perfected version to  T Store.

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LG U+ Game Center

Due to the user base for both of these app stores being much smaller, both stores offer the chance to work with a much smaller audience when publishing a game. Not only does this allow feedback from users in terms of what they like and don’t like about the game, it also offers developers time to fine tune and update their title while still making a profit. In the end this allows developers to find and fix potential problems that games can run into such as network and firmware compatibility issues and gradually revise the game until all the issues are fixed. Having already soft launched their game, developers can now submit a version of their game that through feedback and testing, is perfected and ready for a larger marketplace.

 

Submitting to the LG U + and KT Olleh App Stores

The LG U+ App Store or LG SmartWorld offers over 4,000 apps ranging from themes to games. As of 2014, users are able to download apps from both their mobile devices and the SmartWorld website as well as sync their purchases on other devices by signing up for a LG Account.

Along with the app store, LG has created the LG Mobile Developer Network, a website designed for third party software developers working on LG mobile devices. The website allows developers to create and share widgets as well as develop and test their games and applications with the Virtual Development Lab (VDL) and Over-the-Air (OTA) downloads.

When submitting an idea, developers can register on the SmartWorld website, allowing developers a wide amount of options and methods in both submitting and distribution. Developers are allowed to register their project through both traditional means by filling out the included form or by attaching a link to the developer’s youtube video. Developers are also allowed to choose the pricing of their app and also choose in which countries they wish to distribute.

Finally, when submitting a proposal, developers have to sign up for a LG SmartWorld CMS membership, which has slightly different specifications depending on whether your app will be free or sold for profit, like the T Store, the developer is allowed to keep 70% of profits with the remaining 30% going to LG.

Developers wishing to publish their apps on Olleh must register at the website Seller Olleh Market to become a KT Web Partner. From here you can register your proposal to be submitted to KT where your proposal will go through two evaluations. If the proposal passes both evaluations, the developers is contacted in order to take the next step in putting their app on the marketplace and where details such as pricing and payment are discussed. Keep in mind however, that the developer website, along with the proposal process is all in Korean, meaning that a translator or guide is needed if one chooses to go forward with the process.

 

The Changing of the Guard

Before the days of smart phones SK, LG and KT ruled the gaming market. They were the gatekeepers, the ones who ultimately decided which games would be featured on their marketplace and ultimately, which games would be featured on the front page of their respective application stores. Back then games on the front pages were the games that everyone downloaded and played while other games would become lost in the backlog. It came to the point that developers and studios would go out of their way to make friendships with the companies in the hopes of getting their games featured.

This all changed with the release of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, true open markets where developers no longer needed to go through the three companies just for the chance to put their games on the market. Apple and Google introduced a true open market for anyone who wanted to develop and opening the doors to everyone from small studios to major publishers.

A major shift was brought to the world of Korean mobile gaming. The gatekeepers who ruled the market were no longer necessary. A new age had begun.

 

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Kyle Hovanec is a writer currently living and working in South Korea. He writes for several Korean publications including Latis Global Communications. You can contact him at khovanec87@gmail.com