I went up to Mobicle a couple days ago. As you know Mobicle produces TK Online which is the first Korean game I've found that actually has an English option. Even though many developers are now targeting the English speaking market overseas they forget that there are tens of thousands of English speaking foreigners in South Korea who are potential customers as well. True, not all want to play video games but even if a few hundred were interested in a game it could provide a boost to many games out there.
Mobicle is a company that has embraced the foreign market. In addition to providing TK Online in English, they also have contracts in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, China and The Philippines. They have a dance themed game that they've been working on in The Philippines for about 4 years which has around 4000 concurrent users called "iDate". They're hoping to try and bring it to Korea later. The company currently has around 53 employees. On Monday I met YJ who had just come back from a business trip to China where he was meeting their partner. YJ and I got a chance to talk about their business, their games, and the Korean gaming market in general.
Mobicle's bread and butter is their mobile games. They were founded in June 2004 as a mobile games company and it wasn't until 2006 that they started to branch into online PC games. They are responsible for the very popular Ma-gu Ma-gu a baseball game. They have a partner ship with CJ Internet to develop some games for them. As I walked around the office I could see many poster boards for the various cell phone games they make. Some were instantly recognizable. Recently they've begun to release games on the iPhone as well. From the list YJ sent me it looks like they have nine games out for the iPhone now including Cubetrix 3D which has gotten some pretty favourable reviews.
The first thing we really talked about was TK Online. It is what had drawn me to the company after all. TK Online has actually been in development for about 3½ years. However, 2 years ago they had some server issues and had to redevelop the server code from scratch. This is what has delayed the release so long. Also they are pushing the games in foreign markets right now. The game just completed its 3 closed beta in Malaysia, and is also being developed in Japan right now. Mobicle wants to finish the game overseas and then bring it back to Korea. So this means we may actually be waiting a little while for it. We can always hope that they will keep some kind of open beta open for us though.
I asked YJ what inspired TK Online's style. He said that Starcraft is a powerful force in Korea and competing with it wasn't exactly what they wanted to do. he said players enjoyed combining items to make different gear and that helped to set it apart from games like Starcraft. He also compared the game to Avalon, which is a similar styled game being released under another service. These kinds of games are helping Korea develop the RTS market. They feel that a company like Blizzard has so many years of research and data under their belts that their games come out very good and polished. Other companies who want to get started don't have access to that kind of experience and resources so it takes them time to reach that level. Perhaps in a few more years we'll see some very good home grown RTS games here in Korea.
Up Next YJ and I discussed the Korean gaming market and how it compares to other countries they do business in and the Western model.