Sensor Tower’s report revealed that revenue remained above pre-pandemic levels, but downloads decreased in the Korean market.
South Korea’s in-app purchase revenue reached nearly $3.6 billion in the first three quarters of 2023, with overseas manufacturers accounting for 42% of the total, according to a new report from Sensor Tower. China and the United States were identified as the largest foreign markets in Korea, accounting for 28% and 7% of revenue, respectively, among Korea’s top mobile games.
In-app purchase revenue was seen peaking during the pandemic, surpassing $5.9 billion in 2021. Revenue has dropped somewhat as full-year 2023 is expected to reach $4.8 billion. App revenue in the first three quarters of 2023 was 24% higher than the same period in 2019 and shows no signs of slowing down.
However, downloads are showing a clear downward trend. 2020 recorded downloads reaching 650 million, an increase of 9% compared to 2019, however 2021 and 2022 had downloads below 2019 numbers. As of now in 2024, the number of downloads reached 370 million, with full year downloads expected at 500 million. Mosaic Heroes is the most downloaded mobile game and the game with the highest download growth, with more than 2.4 million downloads.
In terms of genre, RPG is the most profitable game series in Korea, generating 2 billion USD in in-app revenue in the first three quarters of 2023, accounting for 50% of total revenue. The MMORPG genre has been identified as particularly lucrative, generating $1.4 billion in revenue to date, accounting for 69% of the genre’s revenue during the period. Korea is the world’s leading country in the field of mobile MMORPGs, accounting for 32% of this branch’s global revenue. This is partly due to the success of Lineage M, which is South Korea’s most successful mobile game with revenue of $300 million during the period, topping the revenue rankings.
The performance of Lineage M as well as other games in the Lineage series has helped NCSoft maintain its position as the highest-grossing mobile publisher in Korea, a position it has held for five consecutive years. Meanwhile, five Chinese developers, including Tencent and miHoYo, made the list of the top 10 most profitable publishers in Korea during this period.
Some Korean games have been successful in foreign markets, such as Nexon, famous for Blue Archive – a mobile game with revenue of 190 million USD. MapleStory: The Legends of Maple was also notable when it released in China in August and quickly attracted players, earning $65 million during this period. This once again affirms the outstanding strength of the Chinese mobile game market.
According to the report, the Korean game is said to have achieved more success in other international markets than in China. The United States, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau were identified as the top foreign markets for the Korean mobile game with $930 million in revenue, fully accounting for 40% of foreign revenue.