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S.Korean game industry boasts strong growth; set to exceed $16 bn

By Jan 05, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

League of Legends World Championship 2018 pulled in 99.6 million viewers (Courtesy of Riot Games)
League of Legends World Championship 2018 pulled in 99.6 million viewers (Courtesy of Riot Games)

South Korea’s game market size is projected to exceed 18 trillion won ($16.6 billion) this year, driven by game enthusiasts who have remained loyal consumers since the days of arcade games.

Korea's game market is almost one-third the size of the domestic automobile market, which is valued at 59 trillion won. The overall tangible and intangible value of the evolving game market is valued at 24 trillion won annually.

In 2020, the domestic game market size was estimated to be around 17.9 trillion won, up 9.2% from the previous year, according to a white paper released by The Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) on Jan. 4. This year, Korea’s game industry is expected to hover around 18.3 trillion won, up 7.4%.

Mobile games are credited with pushing the domestic game industry’s growth. Last year, the mobile game market swelled by 21.4% to 9.4 trillion won compared to the previous year, accounting for 55.2% of the total game market.

Game exports are also rising, with exports in 2019 standing at $6.7 billion, up 3.8% from the previous year.

Graphics by Jerry Lee
Graphics by Jerry Lee

The country's three major game companies steered the game industry's growth, together accounting for nearly half of the game market last year. Nexon Co., the first domestic game company to top 30 trillion won ($27.8 billion) in market capitalization, is estimated to have exceeded 3 trillion won in revenue last year, according to KOCCA.

Another Korean game developer Netmarble Corp. also pulled in a record-high 2.5 trillion won in revenue. Meanwhile, NCSoft Corp. is set to surpass 2 trillion won in revenue thanks to the mobile version of its game series Lineage becoming a global hit.

Also, Krafton Inc., the label behind PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), is expected to post 2 trillion won in revenue, with video game developer Smilegate Co. reaching 1 trillion won in revenue for the first time last year.

“Gamers spent more time playing games during the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped boost Korean game companies’ earnings,” said a game industry official.

NCSoft Corp's mobile game Lineage 2M became a global success
NCSoft Corp's mobile game Lineage 2M became a global success


Industry researchers say game aficionados led to the rise of Korea’s game industry, which more than doubled compared to a decade ago when it was valued at around 7.4 trillion won ($6.8 billion).

The game market's annual revenue alongside the intangible value related to the gaming industry reached 139.1 trillion won in 2020, with game fandom responsible for around 24.1 trillion won, according to a research report on game fandom by KOCCA and Kyung Hee University’s Industry-University Research Center.

Gamers contributed to the overall Korean economy in terms of both tangible and intangible value, triggering 42 trillion won in production inducement, 21.2 trillion won in added value inducement, and creating around 265,000 jobs.

“PC game fandom's spending extends to the games' mobile release and sequels,"  according to the research report. “Game fandom ushered in a new game ecosystem, including game livestreaming and game leagues, which prompted non-game companies to participate as sponsors.”

According to app analytics company IGAWorks, 90% of the mobile game revenue on Google Play in the first half of 2015 stemmed from 1% of the users.

“Even now, especially for MMORPG games, the top spenders – the so-called whales – are the driving force behind the game industry,” an industry official said.

Write to Joo-wan Kim at

Danbee Lee edited this article.
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