Inbal Lavi (pictured) is CEO of Israel-based marketing company Webpals Group, which includes a mobile division that helps South Korean gaming developers break into other markets, particularly the US.
In this Q&A she tells Mobile World Live why Korean developers must make the shift from regional to international audiences and what lessons other developers can learn from their experience.
Tell us about South Korean game developers.
Inbal Lavi (IL): South Korea’s gaming developers understand the value of working with publishers that can segment users, customise brands and help them build an amazing user experience.
They generate revenue through in-app purchases and advertising. Leading developers have cornered the Korean market by knowing their audience and their interests, monetising appropriately.
It helps that South Koreans are social gamers, logging into the big gaming verticals like strategy and casual games.
How should saturation in the South Korean market be dealt with?
IL: In order to overcome a fully capped market, game developers should think globally. By publishing games in the United States or in Southeast Asia, Korean app developers can tap into new markets with brand new audiences. We saw this trend when Netmarble, one of the top three game developers in Korea, went through a gigantic IPO last year and opened offices in the US with the goal to become a leading global game company.
We also saw this when developer Actozsoft opened subsidiaries in the EU.
Another step towards global expansion is through public-private cooperation, through organisations like Kocca [Korea Creative Content Agency], which helps developers to finance their international expansion.
What other challenges do they face and how can those be overcome?
IL: The main challenges Korean app developers face is engaging with markets which are not their own and becoming culturally fluent enough to reach international gamers with different reference points.
In the US and Europe, it can be difficult to grab the attention of new users and sustain their interest for long periods. Conversely, reaching gamers in emerging markets proves challenging as monetisation can be a fickle game of trial and error.
As they were focused on the Korean local market until a few years ago, they have very little experience or understanding of how to market their games outside of Korea. This global opportunity is a large part of why Webpals Mobile has opened an office in South Korea.
Culture plays another heavy role in barring developers from reaching international success. It is incumbent upon South Korean developers looking outside of their borders to understand the cultural references of their target audiences and to localise games.
Gamers in different countries play differently and, in order to be successful, games must be tailored including with proper translations, graphics, music and other game elements.
Game developers must orient themselves with a strategy that puts emphasis on cultural customisation and personalisation. Without this extra step, developers will find themselves on an unending search for meaningful users.
What can developers in other regions learn from them?
IL: Game developers outside of South Korea have plenty to learn from Korean developers, who are known worldwide for creating high-quality games and working with major media companies. Game quality is at an all-time high with vibrant animations and graphics, and the Korean gaming economy is booming since the nation’s near total adoption of mobile devices.
It is also worth noting Korea itself remains a lucrative gaming market domestically and internationally. Compared to other markets it has a significant average revenue per user.Subscribe to our daily newsletter