4 Marketing Trends of Mobile Games Market for 2015 in Korea

POSTED BY nasmedia / 29 May 2015 / Insights

Tags: #mobilegame #mobilegametrend #Korea

A country which boasts the 2nd highest smartphone penetration rate in the world, the fastest wireless network such as 4G LTE and WIFI that enables perfect gameplay anytime, anywhere, which also ranks third on Google Play’s top grossing countries, is bound to intrigue and lure plenty of mobile game developers. This would explain why Korea is one of the most attractive markets in the world for mobile games.

 As a result, competition among mobile game developers has reached a phenomenon state in Korea, causing a major shift in marketing strategies of mobile games. Following is the 4 hottest trends of Korean mobile market in the first quarter of 2015.


1. As Games platforms are diversifying, KaKao Game no longer has the monopoly

 In the early days of mobile games market in Korea, listing your game on ‘KaKao Game’ was believed to be the surefire way to success. However, as a large number of similar games started to saturate the Kakao platform, its initial effect began to wane, causing a lot of developers who were discontent of Kakao’s high commission rate to move on to new platforms that propose less expensive commission rate, such as ‘Afreeca tv’ and ‘BAND’. The infamous tale of ‘Clash of Clans’ making a huge hit without listing on KaKao platform contributed to the trending recognition that a mobile game indeed does have a chance of success without necessarily going ‘for KaKao’.

 Following Clash of Clans, growing number of ‘Non-KaKao’ Games such as hugely successful product of a partnership between Netmarble and Naver games platform ‘Raven with Naver’, started to emerge in the market. As a countermeasure, KaKao decided to team up with Nexon and scheme a huge launch for ‘Top of Tanker for Kakao’, KaKao’s role in this partnership was to provide extensive amount of support for the launch including KaKao emoji reward promotional event as well as financial support with the marketing budget. With other efforts such as launching ‘Kakao Game Shop’ with lowered commission rate, KaKao is making constant effort to take back the upper hand and bring back the KaKao glory. This hotbed of rivalry highlights just how thorough you have to be when deciding which platform to go with to launch a new game in Korea.

2. TV commercial is a must, and so is a unique, distinguished creative

 Thanks to the trend of grand TV commercial scale started by Supercell, people say that ‘one out of three TV ads is now mobile game advertisement’. In fact, according to an analysis on TV commercial budget of mobile games, the figure in March 2015 reached $24 million, which is approximately 15 times higher than that of last year($1.5 million). This can be recognized as an indicator of mobile games market entering the mature phase thus having to secure new non-gamer users as well as existing gamer users.

 As TV started to get saturated with mobile game ads, the advertisers have realized that unique and interesting creative is crucial for their ad to stand out compared to other numerous mobile game commercials. To this end, a new trend has emerged where game commercials go all out with celebrity endorsement as well as full blown creative production, as opposed to general game play imageries that were mostly used in the early days.

3. Pre-registration earns its place among the top marketing tools

 Pre-registration as a marketing tool properly took off last year, and now it has become a crucial part of an overall marketing strategy for mobile games. Platforms that specialize in pre-registration such as HungryAPP, Inven, Registration TOP 10, and Gameshuttle have become influential players in the market – one case showed these pre-registration platforms collectively generating 1 million user signups for a single game. Recently, one of the major game communities HungryApp started to provide their pre-registration services for free, giving an additional boost for the pre-registration marketing industry. The main cause for pre-registration’s popularity is its ability to bring in higher conversion rate of actual users compared to the users brought in on a CPI campaign. According to the industry analysis into LTV of users from different UA channel, overall average ARPU marked at $1.19 but ARPU of users acquired via pre-registration recorded $3.04, 3 times higher than the average.

4. Success of IP utilization

 Due to the ever-intensifying competition in the mobile games market, more and more games developers have started to develop IP based games as a differentiation strategy to secure users. Based on Google Play’s top 20 grossing games on May 6th, not a single IP based game could be found in the charts of the same date of 2014. In 2015 however, 4 games – MU Origin, I Want to be a Summoner, Hearthstone, and Marvel Future Fight – were in the top 20 charts. MU Origin, I Want to be a Summoner, and Hearthstone are based on popular existing online game IPs whereas Marvel Future Fight is based on IP of the ‘Avengers’ franchise. In addition, ‘God of High School’, based on the IP of a famous Korean Webtoon recently launched as well.

 When games are based on IPs that are already familiar to users, it gives an edge for easier UA in the initial phase of the game launch, and the pre-registration to download conversion rate tends to be higher. A famous IP does not always guarantee a success however, hence it would be wiser to apply a thorough and unique strategy custom-drafted for one’s company rather than simply chase after the trend

Byung-jo KIM, the mobile business department director of Nasmedia, commented that “as Korean mobile game market has entered its mature stage, the competition has become tougher making the situation for new titles that much harder to crack the market. Under such circumstances, the developers must take a holistic consideration of the whole life cycle of the game - from contents planning, pre-registration, rank boost, IMC marketing to user retention.” He added that “a marketing strategy that not only acquires users but also converts and retains loyal users is now critical.”

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