China Grants Service License to Korea Games, Raising Hopes for Reopening | Be Korea-savvy

China Grants Service License to Korea Games, Raising Hopes for Reopening

"Lost Ark" by Smilegate

“Lost Ark” by Smilegate

SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Korea Bizwire)As the Chinese government has recently shown some signs of lifting the yearslong ban on South Korean cultural products, including video games, hopes are high that local game developers will be able to tap into the world’s largest video gaming market again.

Last week, China’s National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), the agency in charge of licensing video games, released a list of newly approved games, including 44 imported games.

Among the licensed foreign games, seven Korean titles were included.

They are “Lost Ark” and “Epic Seven” by Smilegate, “MapleStory M” by Nexon, “Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds,” “A3: Still Alive” by Netmarble, “Shop Titans” by Kabam and “Gran Saga” by Npixel.

It was the first time that the Chinese authorities gave permission to multiple Korean games at the same time since 2017, when Beijing cut off nearly all bilateral cultural exchanges with Seoul in apparent retaliation against the deployment of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea.

Over the past six years, only two steady-selling Korean games — “Summoners War: Sky Arena” by Com2uS published in 2014 and “Black Desert Mobile” by Pearl Abyss published in 2018 — were given the NPPA license in December 2020 and June 2021, respectively.

"MapleStory M" by Nexon

“MapleStory M” by Nexon

The South Korean game industry welcomes the move, anticipating that the NPPA’s latest approval will pave the way for local companies to gain new growth momentum in China, which is forecast to post US$45 billion in revenues in 2022, accounting for a quarter of the global game market.

“It is significant that China has given service license to hit Korean games, like ‘Lost Ark,’ ‘Epic Seven’ and ‘Cross Worlds,’ that can capture Chinese gamers,” said Lee Hee-seok, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities, in a report.

“Game developers are in high spirits as China has emerged as a new promising factor for their outlooks.”

Local game developers enjoyed a rise in stock prices after the news about the NPPA permission.

Shares of Netmarble soared 17 percent on the Korean main bourse on Thursday, while Com2uS rose 1.39 percent on Monday.

"A3: Still Alive" by Netmarble

“A3: Still Alive” by Netmarble

Experts forecast that more Korean games will be permitted to launch service in China amid eased diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Seoul after the summit meeting of the two countries in November.

China has opened its doors to Korean cultural content in the past year as online streaming of some Korean TV series and movies resumed after six years.

In 2021, the comedy film “Oh! My Gran” (2020) hit Chinese theaters, the first Korean movie to do so in six years.

However, some remained cautious about China’s market opening, saying that NPPA’s approval does not guarantee success in the Chinese market.

“It’s good news but it can be just a one-time event,” said an official from a local game company, asking for anonymity. “We have to wait and see whether the NPPA grants additional licenses.”

Experts pointed out that China’s latest move came as the world’s second-largest economy has now become more confident that its homegrown games are strong enough to outmatch imported games.

“I think those seven Korean titles are too old to have a competitive edge in China,” said Wi Jong-hyun from the Korea Game Society. “Korean game developers should publish quality games not only for Chinese gamers but also for global people.”


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