Revenue from South Korean in-app purchases reached almost $3.6 billion in the first three quarters of 2023, with overseas manufacturers representing 42% of the total, according to a new report from Sensor Tower.
China and the United States are identified as the overseas markets which saw the most success in the country, representing 28% and 7% of revenue among South Korea’s top mobile games respectively.
In-app purchase revenue saw a massive boom in the country over the course of the pandemic, peaking at $5.9 billion in 2021. Although revenue has declined somewhat - full-year revenue for 2023 is expected to hit $4.8 billion - figures still remain above pre-pandemic levels. In app revenue for the first three quarters of 2023 is 24% higher than the same period of 2019, with no signs of slowing down.
However, downloads are on a distinct downward trend. 2020 saw downloads reach 650 million, representing a 9% increase from 2019, however 2021 and 2022 saw downloads below 2019 figures. 2024’s year to date saw downloads reach 370 million, with projected full-year downloads standing at 500 million. Mosaic Heroes was identified as both the most downloaded mobile game and the one with the highest download growth, with more than 2.4 million downloads.
In terms of genres, RPG proved to be the most profitable in the country, generating $2 billion in in-app revenue over the first three quarters of 2023, representing 50% of the total. The MMORPG genre is identified as being particularly lucrative, generating $1.4 billion in revenue in the year to date - 69% of the genre’s revenue during this period. South Korea is a global leader in the mobile MMORPG space, being responsible for a massive 32% of the subgenre’s global revenue. This was led, in part, by the continued success of Lineage M, which was identified as Korea’s most successful mobile game with $300 million in revenue over the period, ranking first in the country’s revenue charts.
Lineage M’s strong performance, as well as other games within the Lineage franchise, helped NCSoft maintain its position as South Korea’s highest earning mobile publisher - a position it’s held for five consecutive years. Meanwhile, five Chinese developers, including Tencent and miHoYo, charted within the top ten highest earning publishers in South Korea for the period.
Several Korean games saw success in overseas markets. Nexon title Blue Files was Korea’s most successful mobile game export with $190 million in overseas revenue. Maple Story: Maple Legend’s success is also noteworthy - the game was released in China in August and quickly attracted players, earning $65 million in that period and pushing the title to over $100 million in lifetime revenue. This highlights once again the remarkable power of China’s mobile market.
However, Korean games saw more success in other international markets than in China. The United States, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau are identified as the top overseas markets for Korean mobile games, accounting for $930 million in revenue, representing a full 40% of overseas revenue.
We listed several of the companies in this article as some of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2023.