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What's up with the South Korean games market?

Mobile and PC MMOs rule the roost in a sector-defining part of the world
What's up with the South Korean games market?

South Korea is arguably one of the most influential games markets on the planet.

According to a Newzoo report, the country is the fourth largest games sector in the world with overall game revenue predicted to hit $5.6 billion this year. Over half of the country's 51.5m population, 28.9 million people, are considered as games players. An impressive 48 million people are connected to the internet.

Of those who spend money on in-game items or virtual goods on any platform, 85 per cent of them have made a purchase in the last six months.

Mobile is the dominant format in the region, with 59 per cent of men and 47 per cent of women playing games on smartphones and tablets at least once per month. PC is the second most popular platform, with 49 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women playing titles on the systems.

In terms of the number of people playing, console has the weakest numbers with only 24 per cent of the male population playing on these platforms - and only 14 per cent.

Competitive gaming

The Korean population isn't just interested in playing games - it spends time watching them, too.

39 per cent of the 'online population' in South Korea watch games content - over 51 per cent doing so on their mobile phone or tablet.

Only 20 per cent of consumers in the country that are aware of professional competitive gaming watch such content more than once a month. Esports is hugely popular in South Korea, and currently the most-watched tile in this space is Riot Games' League of Legends.

But esports has been popular for a long time in the country, thanks to games such as Blizzard's StarCraft. In 2000, Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism sponsored the World Cyber Olympics, alongside Samsung and Microsoft.

Since then the region has gone on to become an absolute powerhouse in the pro-games scene, with many of the world's best players in a variety of esports faring from this part of the world. Indeed, projects like League of Legends and StarCraft 2 could easily be argued to be South Korea's national sports.

Esports' popularity and the abundance of professional gaming talent is down to the culture surrounding video games on Korea.

While going to an external location to play is an alien concept for many, in South Korea LAN games centres, called 'bangs', are commonplace and give people access to a fast internet connection and a place to play games.

Many titles in the region offer incentives to play at one of these centres - one example being League of Legends granting free access to all characters in the smash hit MOBA, something that would normally set users back a pretty penny.

Our sister-site has more details.

Join Steel Media and Jagex Partners to explore the Korean market first hand at G-STAR, the biggest games conference in the region. We're running the finale of the Big Indie Awards, two Big Indie Pitches and a PG Party in association with, Jagex and G-Star, whilst Jagex is launching its Jagex Partner program, looking to connect with developers and publishers in the 'living games' space.

This article is part of our South Korea Special running all through this week.