More than Kakao: Four Korean mobile gaming platforms you should consider

More than Kakao: Four Korean mobile gaming platforms you should consider

Given the importance of the Asian region to the global mobile games industry, PocketGamer.biz is always looking to bring its readers better analysis from the region.

That's one of the reasons we have a dedicated section for Asian news

With that in mind, we've partnered with Korean games agency Latis Global Communications to provide a regular opinion piece - we're calling it The News Gangnam Style

When Korea’s mobile game scene is mentioned, it goes without saying that someone is going to namedrop Kakao.

But Korea is home to a number of competing options. While not nearly as fragmented as China’s app market, there are of valuable platforms that can be taken advantage of.

In this article, we look at four key options; ranging from the Google Circles-like Band, to video streaming platform Afreeca TV Gamecenter and two app stores - the Naver App Store and T-Store.

Checking out the following article for a description of each including the pros and cons for launching games with them. 

Curtis File is the PR Coordinator for Latis Global Communications, a game agency in South Korea helping international game companies break into Korea, and domestic developers find success abroad.

Latis has worked on the localization strategy of games like Archeage, Maple Story, and the mobile hit  Hello Hero.

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 Band

    If KakaoStory is the equivalent to Facebook for mobile, Band is the Google Plus equivalent.

    Developed by Camp Mobile, a subsidiary of Naver, Band emphasizes exclusivity in similar fashion to the “circles” of Google Plus.

    It is a network meant for creating vibrant, close-knit communities and has taken off as a way for amateur sports teams, clubs, and organizations to enhance productivity and engagement within their groups. In May 2014, Band tried to capitalize on the notion that these close-knit communities make for better gaming buddies with the release of its mobile game platform, Band Games.


    Band is more of a free market than Kakao in that launching a game on the platform does not require an evaluation process. Camp Mobile made a conscious decision to give users the power to decide which games were worth downloading, rather the traditional model of having the platform holder curate its content.

    Band also offers very competitive rates for developers and publishers taking as little as 14% of revenue compared to 21% from Kakao.

    Combined with the Google Play Store’s 30%, this means developers get to keep as much as 56% of their revenue, 64% if they choose to go with the Naver App Store, which offers even better rates.


    Sending game invites over Band is inherently different than Kakao in that it necessarily involves a far more intimate relationship between the sender and receiver. In Kakao, your notifications may be sent to someone you have only met once, where Band they are likely involved in group that you participate in frequently, like a weekend club or work team. While this may mean a more intimate relationship between users, it also acts counter to creating the virality of most successful social games. Closed groups mean less reach.

    Although the platform was released with much fanfare in April 2014, developers have not seen great returns for their involvement with Band Games so far. It is difficult to find more than one Band game that ranks in the top 100 grossing in Korea’s Google Play Store, with no significant success in the Downloads ranks either. Though Band games may be doing well in the Naver App Store, data is not available to assess their success.

  • 2 Naver App Store

    Released in April 2014, the Naver App Store is a relatively new development from Korea’s internet giant. The platform is making some pioneering changes to the way app stores are run in Korea, making itself a much friendlier option to developers and publishers in comparison to the current major players like Google and the T- Store. Given that Naver is also responsible for Band, the two services are well integrated.


    Among the many pros of the Naver App Store, the most notable is how lenient they are on publisher profits. Developers and publishers keep as much as 73% of their revenue, with Naver taking only a 10% marketing fee, 10% user mileage fee, and a 7% channeling fee. The channeling fee goes back into the platform to help publishers and developers. As a new platform they are also doing a lot to promote the platform.

    Naver is in the process of gaining the support of larger publishers who have already found success in other marketplaces such as Google Play and the T-Store. Naver plans on supporting the app store games by running ads on their search engine.

    Another major point of interest is the platforms 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.


    As an Android-based store, developers do not need to create both an Android and iOS version of their games as they would with KakaoTalk. While this may be a pro to some developers, it also means you are excluding roughly 9% of Korea’s smartphone market. Though it may not be a particularly lucrative group by comparison, there is still an iPhone user base in Korea.

    The platform cannot be tracked with services like AppAnnie, and as a young platform, it’s hard to take any meaningful measures of success. The only evidence we have so far are words of praise from developers that have experience with the store.

  • 3 Afreeca TV Gamecenter

    Afreeca TV is Korea’s most popular video streaming platform. Standing for “A Free Casting”, thousands of broadcasting jockeys are part of the network creating live programming for everything from eating to teaching English. Gaming is by far the most popular streaming subject, with over 50% of streams dedicated to online games like League of Legends, DOTA, and Starcraft.

    With gaming drawing in millions of viewers, the company decided to release a mobile game platform in the second quarter of 2013. In June they teamed up with Taiwanese game company, International Games Systems Co Ltd., to bring games to Chinese speaking markets in Hong Kong and Malaysia.


    Though it has a smaller user base than other platforms, Afreeca’s users tend to be passionate about games. A large portion are teenagers and young adults in their 20s who game as a hobby. It has a built-in marketing service with many of their broadcasting jockey’s promoting the games on their channels.

    In order to use the service, users must join a “Clan”, which is led by one of the platforms jockeys. The jockeys can stream the games live and play with their viewers. Users can gift their favorite jockeys with "chocolate” currency, which can be exchanged in the Afreeca store for items and in some instances real cash. Jockeys are therefore rewarded for playing interesting games to their audiences to earn more money.

    Additionally, users can earn chocolate with incentivized downloads, playing other games, and making in-app purchases. The end result is an ecosystem that gives heavy incentive to make purchases.


    Similar to the Naver App Store, Afreeca TV Gamecenter is still relatively young, and as an independent service, its profits can’t be tracked with services like App Annie. Its major drawback is that it has a much smaller audience than the major stores in Korea.

    A second major downside to the platform is that it is difficult to navigate for foreign companies. Personal relationships with influential jockeys is extremely important for getting the most out of the platform. If developers choose to go this route, it would be best to find a partner with the right connections.

  • 4 T-Store

    Opened in 2009, the T-Store was at one time the biggest Android store in the country (before Google Play usurped the throne). It is now operated by SK Planet, an SK Telecom-affiliated company, arguably the biggest mobile carrier in the country.


    Before Google Play Store arrived, the T-Store was by far the most successful app store in Korea. It remains a strong platform.

    One of its strongest points is that it is integrated with Flurry analytics, allowing developers to track their performance more easily than other independent platforms in Korea.


    Like the Google Play Store, T-Store takes a 30% revenue cut for its store services. Only Android games are supported, so like the Naver App Store, iPhone users are not welcome.

    At one point, Windows phones were also supported, but that was changed in 2013. Joining the store requires members to register and pay a submission fee as well. Games are not guaranteed to be accepted and all games are subject to a review.


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