No Girls Allowed: Should women have their own e-sports league?

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The South Korean based International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) stirred up controversy over gender-equality earlier this week with their announcement that an upcoming Hearthstone competition would be a male-only event.

In a recent announcement on their official facebook page, they have since reversed the statement, saying:

Our reason for maintaining events for women only is that we acknowledge the importance of providing women with ample opportunities to compete in e-Sports,
a currently male-dominated industry. Without efforts to improve female representation in e-Sports events, we can’t achieve true gender equality.

However, we realize that hosting a “male-only” competition is not the right way to go – as we stated, the industry is already male-dominated.
The fact that a female-only competition is being held for the reason stated above doesn’t mean that there is need to define the main competitions as “male-only”.

Therefore, we have decided to remove “male-only” competitions. This means the upcoming IeSF World Championship will host tournaments in 2 sections:
an “open-for-all” section which is open for all genders (replacing men-only competitions), and a female-only tournaments as stated previously.

Though it appears that they have made a 180, some netizens are still unhappy with set-up:

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But amidst the anger at IsEF for their Little Rascals-like thinking, there are some unpopular facts that support may lend support to their decision. Although Jason Schreier over at Kotaku may say,  “there is nothing about games like Hearthstone that would indicate that men and women play at different levels”, that is not entirely true. South Korea has a history of e-sports showing that women have not performed as well in mixed-gender tournaments going all the way back to the early days of Starcraft.

ToSsGirL is an excellent example of this. Until 2012, she was the only active female pro-gamer in the Starcraft scene, and her performance in the mixed gender scene rarely saw her pass the preliminary rounds. On the other hand, she dominated the female competitive scene, never losing a competition that she entered. So what does this mean for girls in e-sports?

Causal conclusions can’t really be drawn from the data. It’s just as likely that a lack of acceptance by the broader community affected her performance as it is that she was truly less skilled than her male counter parts. But whatever the reason, the pro-gaming scene in general has shown this pattern. And the truth is, ToSsGirL was much less likely to get noticed for her skill if there hadn’t been a females-only scene that she was dominating.

Even though women make up roughly 50% of gamers, they represent less than 10% of the professional competitive scene. Though the reasons for this are likely to include the sexist nature of competitive scene among other things, the point remains that until a stronger female scene is fostered, partitioning the competition in genders may very well be the best way to ensure that girl gamers get some of the spotlight.

 Tell us what you think!

Do you agree with having a separate league for female gamers? Why or why not? Leave a comment and let us know what you think. Remember to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more gaming news out of South Korea!

Kakao Talk Odds & Ends: How Wooga targeted Korea

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jelly-splash-icon*Update 1*

The title of this post has been changed and some of the information edited. We felt it was misleading from the point we were trying to make. Ultimately, as one of the commentors has pointed out, Wooga probably did not earn much in Korea. They did some good things for people to learn from and  we hope you find it valuable!

*Update 2* Here is a Pocket Gamer presentation that Wooga gave about their experience entering Korea.

Overview

Developer Wooga
Release Date November 2013
Google Play Downloads 500,000 – 1,000,000
Top Grossing Google Play Rank #54 (Nov. 2013)

In November 2013, Wooga launched Jelly Splash for Kakao Talk. They were among a handful of foreign games on the platform at the time. While they didn’t dominate like Clash of Clans or Candy Crush, they made a small impression on the Korean charts and their model is one that developers can look to for valuable lessons.

The Jelly Splash Stats

 

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Top grossing ranks for Jelly Splash on Google Play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within two weeks Jelly Splash hit their peak at #54 in the overall top grossing ranks for Google Play Korea. They remained in the top 100 for a little over a month, with a steady fall off at the beginning of 2014 until now.

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Top downloads for Google Play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They hit the #4 spot in top downloads in under a week of release, but like many games, saw a sharp decline almost immediately. Less than a month after claiming that #4 spot, they were down to #516!

What is important to note here, however, is that although their download numbers jumped off a cliff, their revenue stream remained relatively steady over the course of three months before slowly slipping into irrelevance. This means that whatever they did in that first month earned them a base of loyal, paying users.

 

What they did right

Rapid, viral growth

Just like their statistics show, the first month for Jelly Splash was extremely important. Following that first month, they were getting almost no downloads, but they managed to convert enough of their user base that they had a steadily tapering revenue over the course of a few months. The rapid, viral growth of Jelly Splash can be attributed to a number of marketing strategies that Wooga used to launch the game in Korea.

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A subway advertisement for Jelly Splash in Korea.

First, they knew that offline marketing was important. I can still remember seeing sings for Jelly Splash in Gangnam Station while waiting for the subway. Offline marketing is an integral part of virality in Korea, particularly where subways are concerned as this is where a lot of casual players spend their precious gaming minutes.

On release they made a special emoticon event to pair with the game, helping push their virality even further.

They also tapped into the right marketing and user acquisition networks within Korea, Tapjoy and IGA Works being two of their most significant partners.

These factors combined allowed them to build up a tidal wave of support and ride it out for as long as they could.

*Note* We love different perspectives so I wanted to include the thoughts of one of our commentors. He pointed out that Wooga likely spent a lot to get their initial support – around $100,000, and probably saw a terrible ROI for it. He notes that the top 60 only pulls in ~$5,000 per day and given that they only held top 60 for a few days their investment wasn’t really worth it. He’s right about this aspect of it, so we’d like to thank him for his contribution to the discussion.

 

Optimized and localized

If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say “I don’t need to localize, my game doesn’t have much text,” I’d be a very rich man indeed. A lot of developers still think they can get away with mediocre and sub-par localizations because they think their game is easy enough to figure out.

Wooga made sure that everything from their Google Play store page, to in-game text was in Korean, and made sense for their users. Differences from the iOS version included unique sound recordings, emoticon packs, and new achievements.

Understanding the platforms

Entering the Korean market means that one must have a good understanding of the dynamics of Google Play, Android, and Kakao. Whether or not you choose to go with Kakao (and you can be successful without it), you still need to understand how it operates and how it impacts the game market in Korea.

Wooga ultimately decided to use the Kakao platform, and understood that there is a certain experience that Kakao gamers are used to. For them, that meant optimizing for its UI design and making the game not only fun, but familiar.

The big take-away

Not every game is Candy Crush or Clash of Clans. While both of those games have enjoyed massive success in Korea, they are the exception rather than the rule. Both have managed to sustain their revenue stream at a relatively high peak, but the truth is, a lot of games fizzle out rather quickly in Korea.

Wooga still managed to reach #2 in the top games list, a decent win for a foreign game on the Kakao platform, and managed a small revenue stream the course of a few months. There are likely things they could have done differently to boost their revenue and sustain it over a longer period of time. If anything, they are an example of understanding that your Lifetime Customer Value (LTV) varies in each market, and needs to be one of your top considerations when creating a global strategy.

Tell us your thoughts

What strategies do you think made Wooga so successful in Korea? Do you think they made any critical mistakes? Have you tried launching a game in Korea? Tell us about it! Leave a comment below and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

 

A Day in the Life: The Man Behind the MMO

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A Day in the Life is a new weekly series about working in Korea’s game industry. We’ll talk about current projects (as much as we can), upcoming events, and trends in the making.

Before I started working in Korea’s game industry, I lived a former life as journalist, counting all the pennies I earned while subsisting on cup rameon. Every now and then I still do the occasional spot of freelance writing. Last week I was presented with such an opportunity that I couldn’t resist.

Seoul Selection, the publishing house that operates KOREA magazine for the Ministry of Cultre, Sports, and Tourism, was in search of someone to interview Jake Song, CEO of XL Games, and the mind behind Lineage: The Bloodpledge. He is considered one of the most important designers in the Korean game industry and is largely responsible for launching the country’s online gaming culture.

So, last Friday my interpreter and I headed down to the XL Games office in Pangyo, just outside of Seoul. I can’t give the full details of the interview until it is published, but some of the topics included his take on the origins Korean game industry, politics, the international release of Archeage, and the upcoming release of Civilization Online.

Meeting Mr. Song was particularly interesting for me because I worked on the initial round of localization for Archeage (before Trion made their changes) and I have worked on the translations of design documents for Civilization Online. Even though I can’t share interview yet, I can share what it was like to be a part of Jake Song’s projects.

An MMO Worth 1,000,000 Words

Archeage was an incredible project to work on. We started it right off the heels of another large, multi-lingual translation for Webzen’s Continent of the Ninth.

The game had somewhere on the order of 1,000,000 + words to translate and review. We knew ahead of time that Trion would be making their own adjustments to the game (as is often the case when third party publishers are involved), so our job was just to make sure that the translations were consistent and easy to understand. The glossary for the Archeage alone had nearly 80, 000 unique words in it.

This meant that at times we had logistical nightmares to take care of. Projects of this kind of scale have a lot of moving parts, particularly when the deadlines are relatively short. Multiple translators meant more time invested into the QA process to ensure consistency. In the end, there were some 24-hour shifts pulled to get it done but the coolness factor of working on a game of this scale made it well worth it.

Civilization: The Time Warp

When I first started work on Civilization Online, I had coincidentally just started playing Civilization V. It was then that I learned that it had the reputation for being loathed by girlfriends and wives all over Korea and had a reputation for being a “time warp,” as in, you start playing Friday night and what seems like five minutes later it’s Monday morning.

Unfortunately it’s a game I can’t say too much about given that it hasn’t even had its first round of closed beta tests yet.

I did see the early art mock-ups for it and they look amazing. They went with a cartoony look that you can see in the video below.

It will launch later this year with four different playable civilizations: China, Rome, Egypt, and Aztec. Players will be able to choose from engineers, miners, soldiers, or farmers for their classes.

There is a chance I may be able to join the CBT coming up at the end of the month, so check back for more insights on the game.

Got a question about XL Games? Want to know something about working in the Korean game industry? Leave a comment below! If you like this article, follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive more like it. You can also find us on LinkedIn for weekly updates.