E-sports and gaming industry in South Korea - Statistics & Facts

Published by Won So, Feb 1, 2019
South Korea was the first country to successfully commercialize online games. It changed the mainstream of gaming platforms from console and PC to online. Prior to this turning point, the domestic video gaming market was led by Japan and the United States, whereas the domestic PC gaming industry was dominated by the United States and Taiwan.

After Nexon's sensational release of the Kingdom of the Winds in April 1996, which holds the world record for the longest-running graphical MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), quite a few South Korean products have been hitting the gaming market. NCsoft's Lineage, launched in September 1998, initiated a MMORPG boom in Asia. Maple Story, first introduced at home in April 2003, expanded the influence of South Korean games to North America and Europe. Smilegate's Crossfire and Neople's Dungeon & Fighter were counted as globally best-selling PC games in the 2000s. With the remarkable evolution of the gaming industry as well as internet infrastructure, the usage of the word e-sports has gained traction across South Korea.

E-sports differs from physical sports in a sense that it is an activity involving mental and technical skills, in which individuals or teams compete against each other in games using computers, networks, and visual equipment. The official history of e-sports in South Korea traces back to the Professional Gamer Korea Open (PKO) in 1999. As of June 2018, there are seven regular e-sport events approved by the Korea e-Sports Association (KeSPA) including League of Legends, FIFA Online 3, Dungeon Fighter Online, Sudden Attack, StarCraft II, Crazyracing Kartrider, and Heroes of the Storm as well as two under demonstration which are Soldier Front and Audition Online.

A large game fandom can be exemplified in a list of popular sports in South Korea. Hence, the South Korean game industry has induced a sizable employment. In addition to game developers and publishers, new professions such as professional gamers, e-sports coaches, club- or event managers, and PC bang operators have been created. A PC bang refers to a venue where people can use desktop computers, the internet, printers, and snack bars. It is considered as a social meeting point for gamers to enjoy multiplayer computer games together. There are also some broadcast channels specializing in e-sports leagues and tournaments, while on-site viewing is prevalent among active followers. All in all, the unique gaming culture fueled by national infatuation with games will likely continue to drive the South Korean gaming industry.

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Game industry in South Korea

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