Comment & Opinion

The 4 marketing trends shaking up the Korean mobile games market

Mature market is getting more competitive says Nasmedia

The 4 marketing trends shaking up the Korean mobile games market

Byungjo Kim is the mobile business department director of Nasmedia, a Korean digital media agency.

Boasting the second highest smartphone penetration in the world, the faster wireless network that enables perfect gameplay anytime, anywhere and also ranking third in terms of Google Play revenue, Korea is one of the most attractive markets for mobile games.

As a result, competition among mobile game developers has reached a phenomenal state, which has recently caused a major shift in marketing strategies.

The following article details what we consider the four hottest trends that have been shaking up the Korean mobile games market in the first quarter of 2015.

More mature, more competitive

Byungjo Kim, comments that "As Korean mobile game market has entered its mature stage, the competition has become tougher making the situation for new titles that much harder to crack the market.

"Under such circumstances, developers must take a holistic consideration of the whole lifecycle of the game - from contents planning, pre-registration, rank boost, IMC marketing to user retention.”

He adds that “a marketing strategy that not only acquires users but also converts and retains loyal users is now critical".

To get more information about Korean Mobile Games Market, the complete 2015 ‘Analysis of Korean Mobile Games Market’ report can be found at here.

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  • Kakao Game no longer has the monopoly

    In the early days of the Korean mobile games market, listing your game on the Kakao Game platform was the surefire way to success.

    However, as a large number of similar games started to saturate the Kakao platform, its power began to wane, causing a lot of developers who were discontent of Kakao's high commission rate to move to new platforms that had less expensive commission rates, such as Afreeca tv and BAND.

    The infamous tale of Clash of Clans becoming a huge hit without listing on Kakao has contributed to the recognition that a mobile game does have a chance of success without going on Kakao.

    Kakao Game grew very quickly but equally quickly became a saturated market

    Indeed, following Clash of Clans, a growing number of non-Kakao games such as Raven with Naver, a hugely successful product of a partnership between Netmarble and the Naver games platform, have started to emerge.

    As a countermeasure, Kakao decided to team up with Nexon and planned a huge launch for Top of Tanker for Kakao.

    Kakao's role in this partnership was to provide an extensive amount of support for the launch, including an emoji reward promotional event, as well as financial support with the marketing budget.

    With other efforts such as launching its Kakao Game Shop, which has a lowered commission rate, Kakao is making a strong effort to take back the upper hand and bring back its glory days.

    This hotbed of rivalry highlights just how thorough you have to be when deciding which platform to choose when launching a new game in Korea.

  • A TV commercial is a must but it must be unique

    Thanks to the trend of largescale TV commercials that was started by Supercell, it's said that one out of three TV ads is now a mobile game advertisement'.

    In fact, according to analysis, $24 million was spend in March 2015 in terms of running mobile game ads on TV. This is up 15-fold on March 2014.

    Clearly, this increase indicates that the Korean mobile games market is entering a mature phase in terms of how it marketing to existing players and new users.

    Of course, as with Kakao, as TV channels have started to become saturated with mobile game ads, it's only the really creative and unique ads that are standing out in the market.

    To this end, a new trend has emerged in which game commercials have moved from gameplay footage to full blown production quality and celebrity endorsements.

  • Pre-registration is now a key marketing tool

    Pre-registration as a marketing tool properly took off in 2014, and now it has become a crucial part of the overall marketing strategy for a mobile game.

    Platforms that specialize in pre-registration such as HungryAPP, Inven, Registration TOP 10, and Gameshuttle have become influential players in the market. In one case, these pre-registration platforms collectively generating 1 million user signups for a single game.

    Indeed, accelerating their adoption, HungryApp has started to provide its pre-registration services for free.

    HungryApp is one of the new generation of pre-launch services gaining traction in Korea

    The main reason for pre-registration's popularity is its ability to generate a higher conversion rate of users compared to a standard CPI campaign.

    According to industry analysis into the LTV of users from different UA channels, average ARPU marked at $1.19 but ARPU of users acquired via pre-registration was $3.04 - that's 3 times higher.

  • The rise of IP

    Due to the ever-intensifying competition in the mobile games market, more and more developers have started to develop IP-based games as a differentiation strategy to secure users.

    Looking at the Google Play’s top 20 grossing games on 6 May 2014, there was not a single IP-based game was listed.

    In 2015, however, there were 4 games: MU Origin, I Want to be a Summoner, Hearthstone and Marvel Future Fight listed.

    MU Origin, I Want to be a Summoner and Hearthstone are based on popular existing online game IPs whereas Marvel Future Fight is based on the Avengers franchise.

    In addition, God of High School, based on the IP of a famous Korean webtoon recently launched.

    When games are based on IPs that are already familiar to users, it provides an edge in terms of easier UA in the initial phase of the game launch, and the pre-registration-to-download-conversion rate tends to be higher.

    A famous IP does not always guarantee a success however, hence it would be wiser to apply a thorough and unique strategy custom-drafted for one’s company rather than simply chase after the trend. regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.