Mobile games boom in Korea

20 March 2012

SEOUL: Mobile gaming is gaining significant traction among South Korean consumers, with customer numbers set to triple by 2015.

According to new research by Nomura, reported by ZDNet Asia, there will be 33.1m mobile gamers in the nation in 2015, up from 10.2m in 2011. Korean government forecasts suggest the nation's total population will hold steady at around 50m over this period.

Revenues for the sector are forecast to rise by 60% this year to $305.5m, with growth rates gradually tapering to 12% by 2017, by which time the market will be worth over $800m.

The Asian nation was a pioneer in the development of ultra-fast fibre optic broadband connections, and the pattern has been repeated for the mobile web. Nomura said Korea had the "world's fastest ramp up" of next-generation LTE services.

The rapid pace of expansion is also partly due to Korea's comparatively late transition from feature phones to smartphones, with consumers now playing catch-up to their US and European counterparts.

Regulatory pressures have also played their part, with the authorities demanding their right to pre-screen games before they went on sale in Korean app stores. This issue was resolved in November 2011. 

Going forward, Nomura said it expected "freemium" – with mobile games available to users for nothing, but extra features accessible within the games charging a fee – to become the dominant monetisation model for developers.

Research from Google and Ipsos released in August 2011 revealed that Korean smartphone users are among the most engaged in the world, with the typical user having downloaded 42 apps to their device.

Data sourced from ZDNet Asia/Nomura/Warc; additional content by Warc staff