Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2013 10:33:42 -0700

From: Matt Small (Vector Unit Inc.) Videogames”

Subject: Advice on Kakao?


Has anyone out there had direct experience working with (publishing a game through) Kakao in South Korea?

We know anecdotally that Kakao games are dominant in the Android market in SK.  And we’ve been hearing some pretty remarkable revenue estimates for their top games.

However, as with every platform there are exceptions and it’s really hard to get well rounded data.  Like, is all their revenue coming from one or two top games while the rest of their games languish?  And how are they to work with as a platform holder?

If anyone out there has information to share, I would be most appreciative!




From: David Hahn 


Sent: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 6:31 PM

Subject: Re: Advice on Kakao? (Matt Small)


Hi Matt,

We’ll be launching a new Kakao game in a few months, and as we’re based in Seoul, here are some point of views.

1. SK’s T-Store *had* been the dominant Android marketplace for the Korean audience until last year, not any more. Although there hasn’t been any public announcement from SK, their traffic has gone down significantly after Kakao games started to appeared on Google Play for that past 12 months. In my gut feeling, the local traffic can be tiered to : Google Play >>>>>>> SK T-Store / Naver AppStore >> KT Olleh / LG Oz Store > Samsung > LG Smartworld

If you do not have resources to take care of each specific market’s in-app APIs and approval processes, start with Google Play first, and only if you can generate a good attention from the Korean audience, then start talking with each marketplaces and seek for their support (they all have their own marketing initiatives).

On a secondary note, the same rule applies to Chinese audience. Since there is no Google Play in China, you’ll need to work with 400+ private marketplaces to maximize your reach. You’ll first start with 4-10 of the top players and then increase your coverage. It’s a tough & complicated market, and you’ll probably need a good publishing partner who can handle this.

2. Don’t assume Kakao will bring you an overnight success. There are 100+ Kakao games, and each week they’re launching several new games. About a year ago, all Kakao games received several hundreds of downloads in a matter of few weeks, some going over 3 million concurrent users / 10 million DAU. But the competition is increasingly getting fierce to stay at the top of the chart just like in the US market. Many developers / publishers are spending lots of dollars for paid installs, promotions and marketing. If you’re in the top 10 grossing chart, you can still make a daily revenue of 100k USD. The top selling Kakao game made 1.3 million USD daily revenue 7-8 months ago. The top game these days make 500-700k USD daily revenue. You’ll be giving out 30% to Google/Apple, and then 30% of the net to Kakao, making your revenue down to 49% of the gross. A lot of local developers prefer to work with a local Korean publisher to cover the marketings and promotion, so they split around half of that 49% with a publisher, so in reality, after your server costs, etc, your actual net will come down to 20% or less.

It’s a tough market to stay competitive, and like you have presumed, not all Kakao games perform well. While it’s a still closed platform (you need to show your game to Kakao first and only if they like your game, they’ll give you their SDK), even after the game has been signed, it’s your job to make sure your game will be palatable to the Korean audience, and Kakao does not usually involve in game designs (perhaps they can give you some tips on monetization).

The rumor has that big games like Candy Crush Saga and some PopCap games are coming to Kakao soon. So the quality competition will be even higher, but since a lot of Kakao games wither away after 2-3 months of launching, it is essential that you really think ahead about how you can lengthen the lifetime value of your game, and take it really serious how to engage with your audience after your launch. This is one of the reasons that a lot of traditional PC/Online game publishers perform well because they have live operation experiences.

3. Tips

– Kakao requires you to have both iOS/Android versions of the game at the time of the launch (new rule from March).

– You can work with only a very small number of ad partners that Kakao approves.

– There are a lot of casual users, but some mid-core games are getting attention too.

– Many Kakao games have adopted the User Interface of the best-selling Kakao games, so many games look alike in terms of UI, which may look a little complicated from your point of view. However, it’s simple enough for a lot of Kakao gamers and you might want to consider changing your game’s look to resemble ones that many Kakao users have been educated to.

– Have you eyes on how LINE and WeChat perform in countries that you game get attention from. Kakao is super powerful distribution channel in Korea but there are other messenger-based platforms that you might be interested in talking with.

Lastly, here’s a trailer of our Kakao game called Dessert Town that we revealed at our booth at e3 this year. It’s a sequel to our US iTunes #1 Puzzle game, Gelato Mania. We’ve got the proven gameplay with lots of new levels as well as social interactions to maximize retention and monetization.

If any of you’re interested in publishing the Facebook Connect version of our game for the Western audience, feel free to contact me! We can probably send you demo versions in 3-4 weeks.


David Hahn

Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Vanilla Breeze Co. Ltd.


From: Won Lee (GAMEVIL)


Sent: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 6:31 PM

Subject: Re: Advice on Kakao? (Matt Small)

Hi Matt,

Won from Gamevil here. We have several games on Kakao and Line and I’d be happy to share what we know.

Woosung and Jason’s insight is correct and David’s views are spot on(btw, David’s numbers are very accurate). Kakao is still the dominant distribution platform, but their “power of discoverability” is waning. Nevertheless, they are the single most important platform to be on.

Kakao is a super competitive platform as thousands of Korean developers that were doing PC online have moved over to mobile in the last year or two. They are bringing all their online experience(back end, server tech) and games- as-a-service know how to mobile and this is causing/has caused some disruptions in the market.

If you take a closer look at the games that are doing well on Kakao, while some games are genuinely fun and while others are not awesomely great, most all of them have a myriad of features, systems, and events that are not necessarily part of core game play, but are part of the gaming experience(daily login bonuses, various SNG features, gachas, events, promotions, etc.). To be successful in the Korean market, you need to be able to understand the nuances and be able to build this into your game as well as be able to do the operations(games as a service). This is becoming more and more important and without it, a F2P game w/ just IAP will have an uphill battle retaining users.

IF your game is not casual but more mid/hardcore, you can opt out of Kakao and go directly to Google Play or the App store. We have successful games that are not Kakao integrated but have done well. However, you still need many of the operational bells and whistles to be able to monetize longer and better.

Hope this helps.