tumblbug_logo_crowdfunding

crowdfunding-korea-tumblbug

Start-ups and indie companies have had a hard time getting off the ground in Korea. Indies have traditionally been associated with being amateur and in the trend driven culture of Seoul, indie doesn’t always translate into the quirky viral love affairs as it does in the United States.

Thankfully, this trend is starting to change and crowdfunding is starting to gain momentum on the peninsula. Already there have been successes in the tech world.

Opportune, for example, helped the blue-tooth accessory maker, Semi-link, increase revenue by 230%. The company gathered 130 million won through the crowdfunding platform and allowed them to begin successfully exporting their products. Cultural and art projects are now finally starting to see similar successes.

The film Another Family, for example, earned gathered 1 billion won through crowdfunding. The movie is a fictionalized story about Hwang Sang-ki, a 23- year old Samsung plant worker who died from leukemia in 2007. It was the first commercial film in Korea to be financed through crowdfunding. Now games are starting to see a slice of the crowdfunding pie.

 

Platform Type Company
Donation Tumblbug
Fundu
Good Funding
Upstart
Sponsor/Donation Concrete
Sponsor/Share Investment/ Lending Opportune
Lending Money Auction
Pop Funding

 

While there are a number of crowdfunding websites that have popped up in the last year in Korea, in this article we will focus on Tumblbug, arguably the most popular of the platforms for game funding.

Tumbling into money

Tumblbug tells you what they’re all about in their slogan, “get smart, fund art”. There is perhaps no better crowdfunding platform in Korea for art and cultural projects having trouble finding financing.

Launched in January 2011, it bears a striking resemblance to Kickstarter. The landing page features different project categories including comics and illustrations, music, photos, film, and games.

tumblbug-game-page

Contributing to projects is done in much the same way it is for Kickstarter. Users sign up with an account, or through Facebook, then select the project and donation amount. Payments can be made with credit cards or via bank transfer. Once the payment is made, contributors get a message with information about what rewards they will receive for their contribution level.

Although hard numbers for data are not available, Tumblbug has helped fund hundreds of independent artists, musicians, filmmakers, and game developers. There are currently 81 active game projects as of this writing, including board games, dice games, tabletop RPGs, and PC and mobile titles.

Some successful game campaigns include:


안녕뀨잉펫 (Hello Happy Pet)

waddle_title_think_02

와들와들팽귄즈 (Waddle Waddle Penguin)

Tree of Life

tumblbug-crowdsource-herodetected

Hero Detected

Like Kickstarter, running a successful campaign means more than just posting it online and hoping for the best. A great example of how the platform can be leveraged actually comes from one of our own clients – Owlogue.

Planting a garden of fans

Owlogue is small, Seoul-based, studio built by a husband and wife team. They have released six mobile titles so far, three of which are part of the Mandrake series (the second of the series participated in the Big Indie 40 Project run together with Latis Global and the Korea Creative Contents Agency).

The games are casual, quirky, collector-sims where players plant seeds and harvest Mandrake characters to get their stories, and anime-style artwork. The goal is to collect as many of the Mandrakes and their accompanying artwork and stories as possible. As you can probably guess from the titles, the first two games – Mandrake Girls, and Mandrake Girls: Garden of Secret – focused on artwork of girls. The games catered to a small, but loyal audience, though they never made a big hit in the charts. But things changed for the third game in the series.

mandrake-girls

Realizing that there are plenty of games featuring anime girls on the market, Owlogue decided to mix it up for their third installment of the series, Mandrake Boys. As you can probably guess, the game revolves around the same mechanics, but features boys in the artwork rather than girls.

Success in alternative avenues

With a small budget, Owlogue had to take a conservative approach in marketing the game.  They knew they already had a fan base from their two previous games to work with, so they decided to make turn to Tumblbug to help promote the game. The campaign was for adding voice recordings, an added value to an already complete game. This united their fan base from the previous games and got them involved in the development of the third installment.

Though they started off with a modest request of just a two million Korean won (~$1,912.80 USD), they ended up raising 15,957,011 won (~$15,261.25 USD) from just 403 backers. After reaching their initial goal, they set a stretch goal of 10 million won (~9, 564.00 USD) with more rewards including an art book. The fans loved it and a large majority of them also happened to be avid twitter users. The campaign went viral on Twitter, hitting the top trending topics in Korea and drawing in new fans, even if they didn’t contribute to the Tumblbug campaign.

tumblbug-mandrake-boys

In the end, Mandrake Boys made it to the top 40 grossing games in Google Play, and saw similar success on the Naver App Store, where they are currently making the majority of their success. Though Owlogue attributes a lot of their success to luck, the choices they made  with their Tumblbug campaign and outreach to Twitter played a major role and were innovative choices for indie devs in such a competitive market.

Have questions? Let us answer them!

If you’ve got questions about crowdfunding in Korea, the Mandrake series, or any of the platforms we’ve talked about today, leave a comment below and let us know! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more great articles about Asia’s biggest game markets.

The Risk of Acquiring a Hit Game

microsoft-minecraft-acquisition

microsoft-minecraft-acquisition

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine hit the nail on the head yesterday: acquiring a hit game is stupid. Commenting on the announcement that Microsoft is acquiring Mojang, makers of Minecraft, for $2.5 billion, he had this to say:

Buying a game company is like buying an aging baseball player. You’ll need a miracle to get another hit. And while they might have plenty of fans, they probably aren’t making a lot of new ones…There’s no guarantee it will produce another blockbuster; players will eventually move on from Minecraft, and I doubt anyone is going to buy a dopey Windows Phone just to play a slightly different version of the pixelated sandbox game.

Have we learned nothing from Zynga, Rovio, King and Dong?

Valuing a game on a user-base, as fickle as most gamers are, is asking for disaster. Case in point, Zynga and King both did their IPOs on the heels of their success with FarmVille and Candy Crush Saga. Both have tanked since as their users moved on to the next flavor of the year. This is especially true on mobile where brand loyalty is almost non-existent.

Rovio has long tried to run counter this by establishing themselves, not as a game company but as a brand. Rovio’s spokesman, Peter Vesterbacka, can be heard repeating this mantra at game conferences around the globe. They have their hands in toys, amusement parks, snacks, and even perfumes. But as Constine points out:

there are only so many pigeons you can chuck at pigs, and now its CEO is out after profits sank 52 percent in 2013. If someone had acquired Rovio at the height of its success, they’d be kicking themselves with steel-toed boots right now.

There is an argument to be made that Minecraft does have some unique characteristics that might make it a more valuable proposition. As Keith Noonan at the Motley Fool noted:

The notion of paying more than $2 billion to acquire a company that is primarily known for one game is sure to raise some eyebrows; but Mojang and Minecraft may be a special case. Very few titles in the history of gaming have shown evidence of comparable staying power, and few have a similar potential to aid Microsoft’s aim of bringing its existing gaming resources together with its mobile and cloud focus. If Mojang can engineer successful follow-ups to its megahit, inside the series and beyond it, the company would justify its asking price and be a significant asset for Microsoft.

Even Constine sees there may be hidden potential, noting the game has potential to become a digital platform for creativity much like Legos. However, we’ve never seen a game company with a single title turn into a lasting legacy worth $2.5 billion. The argument is summed up well in his final note:

And I’m sorry, Microsoft, but no one is going to ditch all their other apps and Androids or iPhones for a laughable Windows Phone just to play some special version of Minecraft. If you’re telling yourself that’s why the deal makes sense, your blood-Kool Aid content has surpassed legal levels. Stop drinking it. Kids don’t want Windows Phones. They’re not cool.

You know what is cool? Minecraft. You know what’s an easy way to change that? Have one of the lamest, old-man corporations buy  

Trends in Korea

ipo-cookie-run

Big buyouts are nothing new to the Asian gaming market. SoftBank and GungHo’s $1.53 billion purchase of 51 percent of Supercell based off its success with Clash of Clans is perhaps one of the more notable.  But in Korea massive IPOs from game companies with a single title have been few and far between. SundayToz launched its IPO off the back of Anipang, one of the first titles to hit the KakaoGame platform. The company is currently worth approximately $160 million and its share price rocketed during the first quarter of 2014 on the heels of its IPO.

Other notable companies include DevSisters, the company behind the hit “Cookie Run”, who are gearing up for a an IPO valued at $132 million. PATI Games saw a $20 million injection from Tencent in exchange for a 20% stake in the company earlier this month. Famous for the popular game I Love Coffee, the company is estimated to be worth $100 million. Finally, the flavor of the year 4:33 studios with their game Blade, received $9 million from LB Investments and Korea Investment Partners in May this year, valuing the company at approximately $40-$50 million.

The trend in Korea so far has been far more conservative than the staggering valuations we have seen out of Western companies, and even China and Japan comparatively.

Are these trends a bad omen?

So far, we’ve seen a lot of these IPOs and grandiose valuations cause problems in the industry. As a result, studios have been bought and sold, with people losing their jobs in the wake of poor decisions. But we want to know your thoughts:

Is this type of M&A activity the engine that is going to drive the growth of the game industry, or are we seeing feverish excitement that will ultimately collapse and level off? Is it an overall positive or negative for game developers at the bottom rung of the industry? Leave your comments below!

 

Will Apple’s New Products Make Waves in Korea?

apple-iwatch-release

apple-iwatch-release

For decades the tech world has been attempting to respond to one of the greatest problems ever to plague the first world: too much junk in our pockets.

This weeks announcements from Apple may have people forgetting about loose change problems for good. With the release of their new payment system this fall, Apple hope to have us tossing out our wallets (and the money in them) in exchange for digital purchasing and a brand new Apple Watch.

But how will these new products fare in Korea, where the products are not as fresh and face some stiff competition?

Apple Watch vs. Galaxy Gear 2

As the home of Samsung, its no suprise that Korea is an Android-centric market.  Any Apple product release is inevitably followed by a Samsung comparison, so here’s how the Apple Watch stacks up to the Galaxy Gear 2:

Apple Watch Galaxy Gear 2
Size 38mm and 42mm 41mm
Camera No 2mp
Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart rate Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart rate
Connectivity Wifi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 4.0 Infrared Blaster and Bluetooth 4.0
Charging Through a magnetic attachment Micro-USB dock
Battery TBD 2-3 days of use
Price $349 $299

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it comes to specs, the watches are not all that different. Apple Watch comes out the clear winner design wise, making Samsung’s Gear look cheap and clunky in comparison. But even the best designed smartwatch begs the question: is this a product anybody wants?

Aside from tech fans and early adopters, if Samsung’s track record is anything to go by, the answer is probably not. The first iteration of Galaxy Gear was a commercial flop. A short battery life and an identity crisis over whether to be a phone or a watch turned people away from buying it.

Add to the fact that only 9% of the Korean market is Apple based, and it’s unlikely we will see too many units moved in the Land of the Morning Calm.

Apple Pay vs Kakao Pay

apple-pay-iphone

Although Apple Pay will only be available in the US when it rolls out this October, it bears mentioning for the Korean market.

Consumers in the United States have not traditionally used their phones to pay for goods and services at retail stores.  Mainly because of the ubiquity of credit and debit cards and a lack of other, digital options. But Apple is trying to change that with their new pay service, which will integrate payments into your already existing Apple accounts and they’re making sure that you feel secure.

Usability wise, the system is simple. Since iTunes already has your credit card information, making your first payments is easy. You will be able to add additional cards by entering details yourself, or simply snapping a photo of the card you want to use.

The new fingerprint identification system available on iPhones adds an extra level of security not available on other digital payment systems, which typically require passcodes. Apple Pay will also not store credit card information on its servers. Instead, the information will be stored on a secure chip right on your device. And it’s not even your real card number. Apple will verify your card information with your bank, then store an alternative card number on the phone. That way when a merchant’s system is hacked, only the alternative number is compromised.

iphone-fingerprint-security

This is the type of tech that has the potential to do extremely well in Korea’s small Apple market where consumers have long been used to making payments with digital systems. Though apple will have some catching up to do by the time they finally release Apple Pay in Korea.

Last week Kakao made the announcement for its new pay service, Kakao Pay. The service is similar to Paypal and requires that customers type in their passwords to make payments. While this might seem like more of an inconvenience than that the fingerprint mechanism Apple uses, it’s a much simpler system compared to the complex authentication requirements currently used for online shopping in Korea.

The service has already launched for Android users and will be available for iOS in November. Kakao Pay users can register up to 20 credit or debit cards. BC Card Co., Hyundai Card Co. and Lotte Card Co. have already signed up to work with the platform and many more are expected to follow suit.

Kakao Pay will first offer users gift coupons that they can purchase, and extend its payment system over time to be used in major bookstores, supermarkets, restaurants, and e-commerce.

Apple will have its work cut out for them in Korea should they decide to roll out their own payment system to compete in Korea. Kakao is used by over 90% of smartphone users, both Android and iPhone. If Kakao Pay is successful, it is unlikely that a large portion of the small Apple user base will make the switch by the time Apple decides to roll out its services here.

Leave a Comment:

What do you think about Apple’s new products? Will you buy any smartwatches or adopt the new payment system? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Datascope: Asia’s Mobile Gaming Landscape

investigations-magnifying-glass

Ever wondered how many downloads it takes to get to the top of the download charts in Korea? Or how much daily revenue you need to hit the top grossing spot in Japan’s Google Play Store? We’ve got your answers! We put together this infographic covering the data of North East Asia’s biggest mobile game markets. Don’t forget to hit the Share buttons below and to share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Sales-Data-Mobile-Games-Asia

Naver and Games: An introduction to Line, Band, and the Naver App Store

naver-games-line

naver-games-line

Last week, we discussed the Kakao platform and showed the essential knowledge necessary for getting started with Korea’s most popular mobile platform. Today, we take a look at Line, Band and Naver AppStore. Three related platforms that seem similar, but function very differently from one another.

The Beginning

Naver began as a project within Samsung to develop a Koreanized search engine. After some early successes, the company was spun off in 1999 as the search portal Naver, which also included a children’s site and a game portal: Hangame. In July 2000, after a meeting between Naver’s CEO Lee Hae-Jin and Hangame’s CEO Kim Bum-Soo, Naver merged with Hangame Communications and changed their corporate name to NHN, or Next Human Network, in 2001. It was through this union of being Korea’s top web and game portal that Naver became Korea’s top internet company, with the next several years spent expanding and creating new services. such as Knowledge iN, a question-and-answer service similar to Yahoo Answers and Quora.

line-OTT-service

In 2006, co-executives Kim Bum-Soo and Lee Hae-Jin came to differences over several areas including revenue and the future direction of NHN. This would turn a once thriving partnership into an epic rivalry that continues to this day, as Kim Bum-Soo would leave NHN to form his own company, Kakao Corporation. Through the eponymous KakaoTalk, Kakao Corporation would dominate the mobile platform landscape in Korea for years to come, leaving NHN struggling for a response.

Competing against Kakao: Line, Band and Naver Apps

One year after the release of KakaoTalk in 2010, Naver introduced Line, a messaging app similar to Kakao and developed for multiple operating systems.

Line-Messaging-App

Line was developed by NHN Japan, a division of NHN. At the time, NHN’s team in Japan realized the importance of alternate communication in times when mobile service would not be as reliable and wished to create an app that would allow this kind of communication. After pitching the idea to NHN Korea and getting the idea approved, they quickly went to work on developing the Line app. Launching in June 2011, Line quickly caught on in popularity in Japan, gaining over 50 million users within a year, a number that took Facebook three years to achieve.

While popular in Japan, Line could not shake off the incumbent KakaoTalk’s popularity in Korea. Nor was Line able to create a similar game platform like KakaoGame, a huge moneymaker in Korea, or KakaoStory, an enormously sticky SNS app . This led Line to pursue a more global approach to their business, and with stunning success. Line quickly overtook KakaoTalk in terms of total global users, boasting over 450 million users worldwide. This was twice the number of KakaoTalk’s users, and in battlezone countries where both companies competed for users, Line would consistently emerge victorious over Kakao.

To counter KakaoStory, NHN went with Band, an SNS platform developed by the Naver subsidiary Camp Mobile. If KakaoStory is the Korean mobile version of Facebook, Band is the Google Plus equivalent. Band heavily emphasized exclusivity, similar to the “circles” of Google Plus, and was thus great for creating vibrant, close-knit communities. Band would take off as a way for amateur sports teams, music bands, club organizations and the like to enhance productivity and engagement within their groups.

Naver-BAND

But this still left a gaping hole in the NHN strategy: the lack of a gaming platform similar to KakaoGame. In 2014, NHN announced two complementary gaming platforms that would both take effect around April, 2014. The first is Band Games, a messenger-based gaming platform similar to KakaoGame. The second was the Naver App Store, an independent, Android-based store that would promote and share games with through a desktop/mobile hybrid approach, dubbed the “Naver mobile game channeling service”.

Publishing games through Band or Naver AppStore is a different experience than going through Kakao. These two services distinguish themselves through the tools and flexible options they offer to both publishers and designers in terms of marketing and revenue models.

Band of Brothers

band-games-naver

Band Games is based on the concept that close-knit communities make for better gaming buddies. Sending game invites over Band involves a higher level, as Band friends enjoy a more intimate relationship due to the exclusive nature of the app. This differs a bit from the somewhat “spammy” nature of KakaoGame, which encourages users to send invites to acquaintances and lesser-known friends.

For Band, launching a game does not come with the evaluation process that comes with Kakao. Camp Mobile came to this decision by wanting to give choice to the users and not the platform holder, putting faith in the users to decide what is worth downloading and what is worth avoiding. Band also offers a competitive rate for developers and publishers, taking as little as 14% compared to KakaoTalk’s 21% commission. Combined with Google’s 30% commission, developers using KakaoTalk end up taking just 49% of their revenue. With Band, developers can expect to take at least 56%, and as much as 64% if they use the Naver App Store.

Band-Naver-Games2

Along with this, according to the Appasia August 2014 report, the demographic for Band tends to be older people between the ages of 30 to 40. While the number of users is much lower, the older market tends to have much stronger purchasing power than a younger audience.

Though released with much fanfare  in April 2014, developers have not received great returns for their involvement with Band Games so far. It is difficult to find more than one Band game that ranks within the top 100 grossing in Korea, with no significant success in the Downloads ranks as well.

Naver Appstore: Enter the Search Giant

The first thing to realize about the Naver AppStore is that because it’s Android-based, it does not require developers to make both a Android and iOS version of a game. This differs from Kakaotalk, which has a policy of only accepting games that are available on both platforms. Naver is also in the process of gaining the support of larger publishers who have already found success in other marketplaces such as Google Play and T-Store. This is also a move that aims to strengthen the reputation of the platform and provide a more reputable place to develop and publish when standing next to the competition. Naver plans on supporting games on the app store by using their own search engine to run advertisements and promotions with a goal of attracting at least 30,000 new users.

Naver-App-Store2

The Naver AppStore is also lenient to publishers when it comes to making a profit. Developers and publishers keep up to 73% of their share of revenue of profit with Naver only taking a 10% marketing fee, 10% user mileage fee and a 7% channeling fee with the channeling fee even going back to help out the developers and publishers.

Naver App Store also provides a service called Naver Beta Zone, an application which allows developers to post their games still in development and have users beta test them. Users are rewarded in-game items or other pseudo-monetary prizes for their participation. This works both as a strong marketing tool and an effective form of QA, as games can generate buzz at the pre-launch stage, and bugs can be caught by dedicated and passionate users.

Naver AppStore stresses the cross-platform benefits between desktop and mobile. This really shines from a marketing perspective in several ways. First, mobile games on the Naver App Store appear in Naver search results, allowing them to receive SEO-related boosts to discoverability. Second, Naver coupons and other forms of e-currency that were previously limited to the Naver website are now being ported over for mobile use, allowing for appealing marketing campaigns. Naver also takes a hands-on approach to promotion, often providing perks and discounts at no cost to the developer. Finally, the Naver App Store provides alternative payment methods that are more conducive to younger users. Naver provides “top-off” methods of payment in addition to the traditional credit card and carrier based billing methods of other app stores. This allows for younger users to “top off” their cards with cash and use it for in-game purchases.

After 5 months of operations for both services, it looks like the Naver App Store is the early winner, with developers privately sharing glowing reviews of the Naver App Store’s services and profits. (Unfortunately, Naver App Store profits can not be tracked on sites like Appannie, as they are an independent service.) Still, it remains to be seen if either platform, in unison or independently, can become a true contender to Kakao Games.

The Future

In recent years, NHN’s search results have fallen over 4%, while their mobile searches have experienced a 53% increase. While services like Line may not have found the explosive success in Korea that Kakao has, their hold on the overseas market continues to grow with profits of over $513 million and over $12 million in mobile gaming revenue. It is expected to almost double its profits by 2015. While it may have not beaten Kakao, NHN remains one of  its strongest competitors, both in Korea and abroad. By expanding overseas, there is hope that by offering mobile messaging services that offer everything from games to media, they can catch on to a foreign market whose main use of messaging apps such as WhatsApp is strictly for messaging only.
On the surface however, it seems that their success may seem contradictory to their current business strategy. Line, Band and Naver AppStore seem to be competing against one another, each service fragmented and lacking a central roof to unite them under. NHN does not see this as a weakness, but rather as a strength that sets them apart from the competition and allows each individual platform to to perform to their own strengths. NHN has said that they believe in “strengthening the core competitiveness of each business”, meaning that each individual platform can operate more nimbly and in the end, respond to the competition quickly and without the additional weight of other platforms and their individual needs weighing them down. While Line, Band and the app store may all distribute games, their audiences are different with each platform functioning differently enough that the concern of each platform competing against one another doesn’t really matter in the end.

 

profile picKyle 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 

Chuseok Madness: Korea’s biggest holiday hits the tech world

mobile-games-chuseok

mobile-games-chuseok

The summer heat is leaving Seoul and the mountain leaves are turning bright orange and red. It’s the time of year for Korea’s most important holiday: Chuseok.

Similar to American Thanksgiving, Chuseok is the biggest holiday on the Korean calendar. Every year millions of people leave the city of Seoul to visit friends and family in the surrounding provinces for a five day weekend of great food, soju, and traffic. Lots of traffic.

But it’s not only express ways that get overwhelmed with traffic. Every year the country’s biggest telecoms – SK, LG U+, and KT – have to reinforce their networks in preparation for the spike in communication traffic that comes with the holiday.

This year, telecom companies estimate mobile traffic to increase by 500% in some congested areas, like highways, as people make their way to hometowns. An overall 2.7% increase in communication traffic is expected for the entire country.

Korea-Telcom-Companies

As the Korea Joongang daily reports:

“the number of unlimited data service users has increased recently, data usage other than voice calls and text messages is expected to go up significantly. This year’s Chuseok holiday runs from today through Sept. 9, and for some companies includes Sept. 10.

The number of voice calls is expected to increase 5 percent, text messages 32 percent, and the use of wireless data 20 percent. Use of T Map services is expected to jump 166 percent.

SK Telecom will operate a special communications situation room during the six-day holiday. It will also reinforce its spam message monitor system.”

Chuseok in Games

Chuseok is also having a big impact on mobile games. Several companies have created special, in-game events to take advantage of the holiday. A few examples include:

monstertaming_chuseok_event

CJ E&M’s 몬스터기들이기 (Monster Trainer) planned a songpyeong event (Korean rice cake desert).

tinyfarm-chuseok-event

Com2Us’ Tiny Farm is hosting a harvest event with rewards given passed off the number of rice plants users can harvest.

mystery-event-chuseok 회색도시’s (Gray City) Chuseok update includes a mystery code event where users can find codes and unlock special gifts.

Spice up your games with a touch of Chuseok

Korean-thanksgiving-chuseok

If you’ve got a game in Korea that you’re looking to spice up with your own events there are plenty of things to consider. Food, for example, is an important part of the festival.

One of the most recognizable Korean snacks around the Chuseok holiday is songpyeon, a sweet rice cake that holds sesame seeds, beans, and other traditional ingredients. They are often green, pink, or yellow. Fruits, like apples, are also a seasonal favorite around the Chuseok festival. As much as food, ceremonies are a big part of the tradition as well, some more popular than others.

One of the more common family events is to visit the burial grounds of relatives and pay respect to earlier generations of family. Because of this, public cemeteries are often quite crowded during the holiday season. Others include bull fights,  weaving, traditional performance art, and traditional music.

 

From everyone at Latis Global Communications, we wish you all a Happy Chuseok! Don’t forget to join us on Facebook and Twitter so you can get more updates about the Korean gaming industry!

Korea’s Cinderella Law is About to Become a Pumpkin

shutdown-law-korea

shutdown-law-korea

In spite of the fact that South Korea has one of the most vibrant and talented e-sports communities  in the world, the game community has always had a love-hate relationship with government regulators.

Perhaps the most well-known example of this is in the country’s infamous Cinderella Law , set in place to prevent youth from playing online video games after midnight. Also known as the Shut-down law, its implementation in 2010 was mostly a response to fears over video game addiction.

Since most online games require users to sign-up using their government issued identification number (similar to a social security number), the implementation was rather easy. Anyone born after a set date was booted from online games after midnight, and not allowed to play again until 6 AM. But the efficacy of the law has been called into question since its inception.

The results of a 2013 report, for instance, show that children 9 to 14 are still more likely to play online games than mobile, offline PC, or console games.

It has also been relatively easy to skirt the law by using a parent or older siblings ID to create an account (with or without their consent). Realizing this, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has called for law to be reformed, stating that most families have been standing on their own values, rather than the government’s, in deciding whether their children are allowed to play video games.

The proposed revisions would come into effect next year, and would allow children to play online video games after midnight, providing they had their parents permission.

[source: Games in Asia]

 

We want to hear your thoughts!

Do government regulations on gaming ever work? What is the best way to handle the potential threat of online gaming addiction?

Case Study: How to Build Community and Increase User Retention

Fincon-Hello-Hero-Community

Fincon-Hello-Hero-Community

In the Spring of 2014, Fincon, the creators of Hello Hero, came to us with a problem. They had a huge following, but wanted to improve their game community in the United States. Over the course of two months, Latis Global and Fincon teamed up to reinvigorate their state-side community management program with fantastic results.

One of the reasons we started this blog in the first place is to share information with you so that you can make your games more successful, wherever you launch. Today we are happy to share the first of many case studies and e-books with you. All we ask is that you sign-up to our mailing list and we will provide you with a link to our free case study where you can find out how Latis Global and Fincon teamed up and improved user retention rates by nearly 60%.


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What Is KakaoTalk? An introduction to Korea’s biggest game platform

Kakao Talk Messenger

Kakao Talk Messenger

The sounds of Kakao notifications going off may now be the most ubiquitous noise in all of Korea. Installed on nearly every smartphone in the country, it’s fair to say that KakaoTalk has dominated the domestic market, both as an OTT/SNS app, and more recently as a gaming platform.

Now that they have announced a merger with the tech titan, Daum, KakaoTalk may be the most powerful app in the entire country. So why do so few outside of Korea have deeper understanding of it? In this article, we’re going to give you a big picture view of the powerful platform, elaborate on its success, and explain how to register your own game onto Kakao.

To start, let’s talk about where the app began.

 

The Origins of Kakao

Kakao Corporation was founded in 2006 by Kim Beom-soo, former CEO of NHN Corporation, with the mission of creating web-based SNS services (NHN is the parent company of Naver, the leading Korean search portal, and LINE, the #1 OTT messaging app globally). In 2009, due partly to its lack of services for the web and the blossoming potential of the mobile market, Kakao pivoted from designing web based projects, and devoted themselves to the mobile market.

When KakaoTalk launched in March 2010, its main competitors were Google Talk, Whatsapp and NateOn. KakaoTalk quickly differentiated itself from all 3 apps with its highly polished user experience and aesthetics. Unlike Google Talk, Kakaotalk understood the significance of a smartphone’s contact book over email contacts, automatically porting a user’s phone contacts to create a Kakao friend list.

 

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This would not only make for a convenient user experience, but would later form a powerful, smartphone-centric social graph that would serve as the bedrock for Kakao’s later ventures into SNS (through KakaoStory) and gaming (KakaoGame). Google and Facebook, encumbered by their own proprietary social graphs based on desktops, would be late in realizing the importance of the smartphone social graph.

Furthermore, Korea’s long history with freemium mechanics (see: Maple Story) helped KakaoTalk embrace a more forward-looking, micro-transaction based model from launch. This business model would guide its future products, especially in the monetization of stickers and in-app-purchases within games on their platform.

Contrast this with Whatsapp, which was organizationally uncomfortable with micro-transactions. Though the two apps are similar in original concept, their paths would soon diverge due to these philosophical differences.

Within two years, nearly 90 percent of all Korean smartphone users were chatting, or “Ka-talking”, achieving the same branding and cultural importance of services such as Google (“Google It”).

 

Enter the Gaming Market

Kakao worked diligently to expand its product line. Through apps such as KakaoStory, a smartphone-centric replacement to SNS sites like Facebook, KakaoTalk grew dramatically more influential. Photos, groups, videos and other apps were also developed, ultimately leading to KakaoGame, the crown jewel of Kakao.

Before KakaoGame, many companies had to bridge the divide between social networking and gaming. Often, this would involve a company creating a new social graph from its customers, usually based off their email. However, most mobile games had a short shelf-life, severely reducing the incentive for users to sign up for the platform. Those that did were hardcore users, not only in their allegiance to the game, but to its respective company. The end results were communities of hardcore gamers with very little reach to the more desirable casual gamers. Common examples of communities like this include EA’s Origin, Glu, Gamevil, Com2us and Openfeint. Even Apple’s Game Center, despite its ubiquity, initially had trouble integrating social elements to the platform.

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KakaoGame made SNS users care about mobile games, and vice versa. The service allowed games to sync with a phone’s contact list, allowing for effective implementation of networking features such as invites and co-op play. Through this platform, the modern Korean mobile gaming market was born. Profits ballooned, as two of the earliest titles, Anipang and Dragon Flight went on to become hugely successful, shooting their popularity to the top of the charts and becoming “national games” after only a month.

The South Korean gaming market increased from $300 million to $1.1 billion in a year thanks to the success of Kakao.

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DragonFlight was one of the first successful games on Kakao, driving millions of downloads across the country.

To put it into perspective further: a year ago, a Korean mobile game was lucky if it hit 1 million game downloads. Games on Kakao have boosted that with 8 games on Kakao generating more than 8 million downloads. The previously mentioned Anipang and Dragon Flight have generated more than 20 million downloads. It’s also worth noting that as of now, eight out of ten of the highest grossing games in Korea are games from Kakao with only Clash of Clans and FIFA being able to slip into the top ten.

 

Can I join too?

While Kakao games were built with smaller publishers and developers in the beginning, larger companies have flocked to the platform since its success. Big names like CJ E&M, WeMade and Com2us have put out numerous popular titles on Kakao.

Western titles, such as Wooga’s Jelly Splash, have also joined the platform, with varying degrees of success. Given that Korea is currently the #3 Google Play market in the world, it’s an opportunity that you can’t afford to miss if you want to be truly global. The best way to achieve this is by building a relationship with an experienced partner in Korea, submitting your game to the Kakao platform is easy enough.

 

How to Submit a Game on Kakao

Even if you can’t speak Korean, the process for submitting your game is very straightforward and easy. Start by going to their website (http://with.kakao.com/game/en/proposal), and filling out the form with the details of your game and some basic information including:

  • Title
  • Genre
  • Whether your game is released yet or not
  • A brief description of your game
  • A place to attach your proposal file (you must explain how your game will integrate with Kakao’s social graph here, as well as how the game will monetize)
  • A download link to your game
  • Your company info

After filling out and submitting the form, Kakao then goes through a process of reviewing your proposal. If it looks interesting to them, they will contact the developer or publisher with the possibility of signing a contract.  It may be necessary to visit Korea personally, or to have a Korean speaker available, to explain some of the more elaborate points of your game. Finally, if Kakao accepts your application, it’s time to move onto SDK integration. But we’ll save that for another time.

 

The Future

WeChat adopted a similar platform for China in 2013 with great fanfare and even greater revenue explosions. LINE has also integrated its popular OTT messenger with its games, most notably in Japan. Even in Korea several alternate platforms are popping up, which will be discussed in future posts.

So, not only are alternate platforms rising up to compete with Kakao, but with so many apps now on the Kakao store, it’s becoming harder for companies to find success even with Kakao’s powerful social graph.

Over the course of the month, we’ll discuss some of these alternate methods for finding success in Korea. But for today, we recognize the juggernaut that is Kakao.

 

Have a question? Contact us!

Please leave a comment if you have any questions, especially if you’re interested in launching in Kakao. We’ll be more than happy to get back to you with all of your questions and concerns. In the meantime, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook so we can connect you with more information about making your games a success in Korea.

 

profile picKyle 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 

Game Spotlight: A Thief is coming to Android and iOS

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Thief-Lupin-2

The mischievous Thief Lupin is coming back to Android and iOS devices this fall as Bluewind prepares to release the second adventure of the masked jewel fiend. Thief Lupin 2 features all new puzzles, levels, and characters with the familiar gameplay fans have come to love from the series debut, which reached the top 10 free games in 57 countries. In the sequel to their first major hit, Bluewind has refocused their effort and made the game Lupin was always meant to star in.

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If you’ve played the original Thief Lupin, the basics in the sequel will not be too hard to master. The goal of the game is to achieve a three-star rating in all levels of the map as you fight your way through different worlds facing off against vampires, giant puffer-fish, and hordes of bats. Each level challenges players with time limits, skill-use limits, and other goals that must be achieved to earn stars. Complete more levels to earn points and unlock new characters and items.

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Players familiar with goal oriented free-to-play games like Angry Birds, and Plants vs. Zombies will find this a refreshing return to casual games amid the recent trend of more RPG oriented releases. The one touch mechanics in a simple, 2D platform environment are accessible to all players. As you earn more in-game currency you can unlock skins, boost your health and defensive items, and add more characters to your roster. Among the team of friends joining Lupin in his new adventure are the Pirate Katarina, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Mummy.

Check out the game play below and check for more Thief Lupin 2 updates by liking the Facebok page.

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