The Charticle

From Lineage 2 to Contest of Champions: The games powering South Korean powerhouse Netmarble

From Lineage 2 to Contest of Champions: The games powering South Korean powerhouse Netmarble

South Korea's Netmarble is one of the biggest mobile game companies in the world.

In its most recent financial report, for the three months ending September 30th 2017, it posted huge revenues of $519.4 million - representing a year-on-year rise of 62%.

A whopping 45% of this was made by Lineage 2: Revolution, the MMO phenomenon that famously made $176 million in a single month from South Korea alone, which has more recently launched in Europe and the US.

Lineage 2 has unquestionably been a major hit in its homeland, remaining in the top five on South Korea's iPhone grossing chart since its December 2016 launch.

After taking the top spot in South Korea for its first few months, it took NCSoft's Lineage M, a mobile adapation of the original PC MMO of which Lineage 2 is a sequel, to finally dethrone it.

Lineage 2 is off to a good start in the West too, ranking at 36th in the US iPhone grossing chart as of November 22nd.

But Netmarble is by no means a one-hit wonder.

One of many

Alongside Lineage 2: Revolution, two games that warrant specific mention in Netmarble's financial report are Seven Knights and Everybody's Marble.

Each is said to have contributed 6% of the $519.4 million generated over the course of the quarter, and both remain hugely successful titles - especially in South Korea.

Everybody's Marble has barely left the top 10 in South Korea's iPhone grossing charts since its 2013 launch, ranking at fifth as of November 23rd.

Seven Knights is not still hitting the same heights in South Korea, though its rank of 24th in the country's iPhone top grossing charts as of November 23rd is impressive considering it launched back in March 2014.

The RPG has also been a very consistent performer in Japan, where it ranked 32nd in the iPhone grossing charts as of November 23rd. 

Both Everybody's Marble and Seven Knights have integration with KakaoTalk, the messaging app that's so successful and influential in the South Korean mobile market, which has no doubt played a role in their success.

Fingers in pies

But equal to the accumulative 12% of Netmarble's Q3 FY17 revenues earned by Seven Knights and Everybody's Marble is the haul from a single game: Marvel Contest of Champions.

The game came under Netmarble's control after the South Korean firm acquired the rights along with the Kabam Vancouver studio that developed it. This was surely a pricey transaction for Netmarble - reportedly worth as much as $800 million - but one that's seemingly continuing to pay dividends.

Indeed, Marvel Contest of Champions remains a solid performer in the US iPhone grossing charts despite being beyond its peak at more than three years old. It ranked at 42nd on November 22nd, though it was inside the top 10 - seventh, to be specific - as recently as November 3rd.

Contest of Champions naturally complements another Western-focused game in Netmarble's roster, Marvel Future Fight, which has spent the majority of its two and a half years on the market inside the top 200 US iPhone grossers.

Casually profitable

A further 6% of Netmarble's recent revenue postings came from Cookie Jam, the Jam City-developed match-three title.

Netmarble spent $130 million back in 2015 to become the biggest shareholder in Jam City - then known as SGN - in another example of the firm proactively pursuing a Western audience.

Jam City's output also plugs something of a gap in Netmarble's catalogue, with the company better known for its RPGs than its casual titles.

Cookie Jam has been a major success of Jam City and Netmarble, barely dropping out of the US iPhone top 100 grossing charts since March 2014.

November 23rd 2017 saw Cookie Jam's ranking sink to 110th, its lowest since March 17th 2014, but its performance remains superb for a maturing title.

On the horizon

Lineage 2: Revolution may have only just launched in the US and Europe, but things move fast in mobile gaming. And considering it's approaching one year since the game launched in South Korea, attention will now be turning to the next hit.

After all, if one was to identify a single weakness in Netmarble's glowing financials, it would be that the most profitable games - bar Lineage 2 - are ageing and on the wane.

The firm may well have an answer to this in Tera M, a mobile entry in an MMO series with a huge South Korean fanbase, which has already seen strong interest with nearly two million pre-registrations.

The parallels with Lineage 2: Revolution are of course clear and the sheer scale of that game's success should not be underestimated. 

Netmarble is already on course for a solid 2018, but if Tera M recaptures even a quarter of the success of Lineage 2, the outlook may be even rosier.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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