For a nation so obsessed by games that Starcraft tournaments happen to make great television, the South Korean ban on iOS games always seemed out of place. The ban, which arose from the Korean Game Ratings Board’s concerns about its inability to properly age-rate the games in the iOS App Store finally was lifted after nearly two years.
Apple just added a games category to its local app store in the country in the last week and the reaction is pronounced. According to numbers released by Distimo, in just under a week, games are now 43 percent of the top 100 free apps and 50 percent of the top paid apps.
While Angry Birds is the top paid app in Korea right now, according to our review of the top free and paid apps in the Korean app store listings, South Korean game companies are already seeing their games climb to the top of the charts.
The view of the Korean App store’s paid iOS charts.
Korean developer Com2uS celebrated the news by reducing the price on all its games to $0.99, and leading South Korean mobile game producer GAMEVIL’s third quarter earnings report said the company believes the lifting of the ban will “make significant contributions” to its revenues going forward.
Despite its population of just 48.9 million people, South Korea is the world’s third biggest downloader of free apps, according to Distimo. So the lifting of the ban means a lucrative market has finally opened to casual gaming developers and publishers who have previously had to use other methods to break into South Korean gaming space.
Last year, EA’s subsidiary PopCap teamed with Korean company NCsoft to launch PopCap World, a Korean online gaming hub specifically for PopCap games. While no PopCap games are currently available in the South Korea app store, thanks to the development of PopCap World, the company already has localized version of its biggest iOS hits like Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled, giving it a significant advantage over other developers looking to capitalize on the market.
The news also affects DeNA’s recently announced plans to bring its Mobage Network to the South Korean market. The South Korean subsidiary of the Japanese gaming giant just signed an agreement this week that would bring its games to the extremely popular South Korean web portal and mobile apps operated by Daum Communications.