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Games and entertainment

Game firms seeking strong IP extend ties with content makers

South Korean game developers are increasingly tapping content producers in search of quality original IP

By Aug 31, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Min-ki Koo is an IT & Science reporter at The Korea Economic Daily
Min-ki Koo is an IT & Science reporter at The Korea Economic Daily
South Korean game developers and publishers are increasingly building business alliances with players in the content industry through equity investment or collaboration projects. These firms are trying to secure more intellectual property (IP) that can be developed into games and also expand their existing game IP for the creation of webtoons, drama series or movies.

The investment of the Com2uS Corporation, the creator of the popular game Summoners War, in the video content creator WYSIWYG Studios Co. is an example of such diversification efforts. Com2uS became WYSIWYG’s largest shareholder with a 38.11% stake in the firm by acquiring 11.27 million shares last month for 160.7 billion won ($138.6 million), after having already acquired 5 million shares for 45 billion won ($38.8 million) in March.

WYSIWYG is a metaverse company that specializes in visual effects (VFX) technologies. The company has a strong IP portfolio including the recent Netflix No. 1 hit Space Sweepers, and is known for its diverse range of subsidiaries that create drama series, movies, animations, web novels and musicals. Its subsidiaries include the Kosdaq-listed extended reality (XR) content company NP Inc., the drama developer Raemong Raein Co., and the entertainment company Image9 Communications.

Com2uS said that its acquisition of WYSIWYG will put the company ahead of its competitors in the race for IP. Com2uS will develop games from a wide range of WYSIWYG’s IP, while creating new types of content such as drama series from its own gaming IP. Com2uS highlighted that a strong IP value chain will be set up following the acquisition.

JoyCity Corporation also made a 6 billion won ($5.2 million) investment in China’s fast-growing webtoon platform Kuaikan last month. Kuaikan, established in 2014, boasts 50 million monthly active users (MAU) and 340 million accumulated users. JoyCity said that through the investment, its webtoon affiliate Roadbe Webtoon will be able to launch content in the Chinese market through Kuaikan.

Netmarble has developed a series of Marvel IP-based games, starting with Marvel Future Fight in 2015.
Netmarble has developed a series of Marvel IP-based games, starting with Marvel Future Fight in 2015.

A major game developer Netmarble Corp. has also signed a partnership agreement with CJ ENM’s drama production house Studio Dragon Corp. last month to jointly develop new IP. Under the deal, the two firms will together create concepts and scenarios to be developed into games and drama series.

Regarding the deal, Netmarble CEO Lee Seung-won said that the company will continue to secure strong original IP through creative collaborations with Studio Dragon.

The Netmarble-Studio Dragon MOU signing ceremony on Aug. 20 for joint development of original IP
The Netmarble-Studio Dragon MOU signing ceremony on Aug. 20 for joint development of original IP

IP has become the central focus of game companies as the industry has seen a number of key success cases, including Smilegate’s Crossfire and the US-based Riot Games’ League of Legends, which were made into drama series or movies. The expansion of the IP into other types of content allows the games to remain relevant for a longer period.

Moreover, the continued success and profitability of long-living IP such as NCSoft Corp.’s Lineage has led game companies to focus on creating strong original IP that can be made into other types of revenue generators, such as movies.

“Having a strong IP has become more important than ever in the game industry, allowing market players to develop mobile games, PC games and other types of content,” said a game industry official.

Write to Min-ki Koo at koo@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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