A majority share (52.4%) of Korean-headquartered game developer Gravity Corp, the creator of popular Asian MMO Ragnarok Online
, has been sold to Japanese fund companies TechnoGroove Inc., and EZER, both affiliated with giant Japanese technology company Softbank Group. The stock was previously held by Gravity founder Kim Jung-ryool, whose 3.6 million private shares have sold for 40 billion yen ($359 million), based on an initial investment of 500 million won ($500,000) just 5 years ago.
Softbank’s online publishing branch GungHo was already the owner of the Japanese license for Ragnarok
, which is still growing in the region, so the two make a likely pair. As of this writing, the game operates in 37 countries, with a total subscriber base of 34 million. It was this international approach to which Kim attributes the game’s success.
But recently, Kim's firm had issues entering the NASDAQ, including multiple class-action suits by U.S. investors, and this was one of his primary reasons for selling. In an interview with Korean IT publication JoongAng Daily, he commented: "I felt as though I had reached my personal limit in trying to develop Gravity," continuing, "By becoming part of Softbank, which has a wide distribution network for games, Gravity should inch one step closer to being a global company."
With Ragnarok 2
about to enter a closed beta phase, Ragnarok Online
still going strong, and the recent release of Emil Chronicle Online
, a game in a similar genre of fantasy MMO, GungHo certainly has a lot on its plate. The 52 year old Kim, a 30 year veteran of the game industry, is not out for the count, though. "With the money from the sale, I am considering investing in games for cell phones or personal digital assistants," he added to JoongAng, stating that he envisions cell phone games overtaking the online market in the future.