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Games

Korea’s Wemade, ten bagger with play-to-earn game

Wemade’s stock hit a record high as its MMORPG Mir4 is anticipated to be a game-changer in the industry

By Oct 22, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Wemade's Mir4
Wemade's Mir4

When Vincent Gallarte was fired in July, the Manila IT analyst found an unusual financial lifeline – an online game that rewards players in cryptocurrency, Bloomberg reported. Gallarte made a living with cryptocurrency earned after completing quests in a Vietnamese online game called Axie Infinity. He is one of many Filipinos who earn money from online gaming after losing their jobs, according to Bloomberg.

The global game industry is experiencing a paradigm shift to the play-to-earn (P2E) model from the play-to-win (P2W) model. Game producers with a system to allow users to make money with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are leading the change.

South Korea has such a game maker – Wemade Co, the first South Korean developer to apply the P2E gaming model. The producer of Mir4 has become a “ten bagger” stock, with its price rising more than ten times in about one and a half years.

MMORPG TO EARN

Wemade’s stock on Oct. 19 hit a record high of 148,400 won ($126.1), compared to its closing price of 14,100 won on March 23, 2020. The market capitalization of the game producer with annual revenue of 100 billion won rose to the seven-largest in the Kosdaq, exceeding that of CJ ENM Co., which reported revenue of more than 3 trillion won last year.

The stock rallied as the global-hit massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORP) Mir4 is expected to make Wemade a game-changer in the industry, leading the paradigm shift for the P2E model.

Players accumulate "Darksteel" after occupying mines through battles in the game. They can use Darksteel not only to upgrade items but also to convert it into DRACO, a coin with a new concept to allow in-game assets to be freely exchanged, stored, sold and purchased outside the game. DRACO can be converted into the cryptocurrency WEMIX, listed on Bithumb, one of South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, allowing players to make money. Users become more immersed in the game because they can obtain Darksteel only when they win battles.

Mir4 is popular especially in Southeast Asia where the average income is lower than other regions and the COVID-19 hit harder, as users can make a living with cryptocurrency from the game. The game was launched in 170 countries around the globe, except South Korea. The nation does not allow cash transactions through NFTs due to gambling issues in the country in the past.

NEW BUSINESS MODEL

Wemade makes a profit from selling items and exchange fees. Players are less resistant to buy expensive items since they can earn money if they win battles with the items. They also have to pay transaction fees when they convert the WEMIX. Wemade invested 80 billion won to become the No. 2 shareholder in Vident Co., the owner of Bithumb.

Wemade showcased a new business model since online game players are highly resistant to excessive billing on items, asset management industry sources said.

“The current stock prices are reasonable as Wemade’s Mir4 was a game-changer when NCSoft Corp. recently faced a headwind due to its excessive charging system,” said a fund manager.

Mir4’s success is also likely to prompt global game users to look for other South Korean MMORPGs.

Macquarie Asset Management expected the P2E gaming model that increases user immersion with compensation to become a bridgehead for overseas business expansion, given weak overseas demand for South Korean MMORPGs.

Still, caution prevailed over additional investment in Wemade.

“It is meaningless to estimate a fair value currently. The market will have to bet on the scalability of the P2E games,” said another fund manager.

The P2E games’ scalability may be limited even in overseas markets as controversy continues over gambling through the games applied with NFTs, analysts said.

Write to Sul-Gi Lee at surugi@hankyung.com

Jongwoo Cheon edited this article.

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