Korea's online game market is forecasted to exceed $1.7 billion by 2008, says a new report by consulting firm Pearl Research, who credits a new release boom and a "fervent gaming culture" for the region's anticipated growth.
The fastest-growing segment in Korea is free-to-play casual games, the type Pearl categorizes as easy-to-learn and playable in short slices of time. 80 percent of Korean households have an internet connection, doubtless a key factor in supporting the growth of online games.
Virtual goods and microtransactions also enjoy high adoption rates in South Korea -- the study finds 67 percent of users in their 20s purchase paid digital content. Of these, 91 percent have bought music online, and 39 percent say they've purchased community and avatar items from online services.
Portals -- large online sites that provide a wide selection of different game genres -- are largely the norm in Korea, and Pearl says that more than 10 million Korean adults visit portals every month. Moreover, top portals, like CJ Internet's Netmarble, NHN’s Hangame, and Neowiz’s Pmang can attract 500,000 to 1 million unique visitors a day.
Pearl calls the game market in Korea "robust," but includes that rising development costs, intense domestic competition, derivative "me-too" titles and challenges expanding overseas will remain key challenges for it going forward.