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Korean Online Game Developers Seen Hardcore Gamer a Huge Market

For major online game developers, social networking sites like Facebook presented opportunities to reach beyond hardcore gamers and seek new markets.

During the G-Star show, which kicked off on Thursday, Nexon Korea Corp. said it plans to debut "Atlantica S" on Facebook before next summer.

Created by Nexon's subsidiary Ndoors Corp., the upcoming title will represent Nexon Korea's break into the sphere of social networking games, a departure from years of success with online games that appealed mostly to hardcore gamers.

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Nexon plans to play by different rules from rivals that jumped onto the Facebook platform early. Building on its success with massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), Atlantica S will be the first MMORPG played on the social networking platform, it said.

"There are one or two leading companies that dominate Facebook. Following their rules would not be the right approach for us," said Ndoors Vice President Kim Tae-gon.

"We will create a different market from early starters who are mostly focused on casual games."

Game companies that initiated the move to Facebook like Zynga Inc. became widely successful with easy-to-learn games that attracted millions of casual gamers.

These people, who do not necessarily define themselves as gamers, were not seen as a huge market for Korean online game developers. The Korean companies have drawn a steady stream of revenue from hardcore gamers who are loyal, committed to their games and willing to devote several hours a day glued to their personal computers.

But Korean firms now see that Facebook could be a way to charm new users, including females and senior citizens, into MMORPGs.

Tweaking MMORPGs for Facebook while retaining their massive scales and wealth of content could help game companies command long and lasting commitment from new users, they said.

The earlier success of Kabam Inc., a San Francisco-based company that took Facebook by storm with "Kingdom of Camelot," testifies to the trend of tweaking an online PC game for Facebook and hitting a homerun.

"We've shown that Facebook players do want variety," Hendrick Sukardi, the executive producer at Kabam, told the audience at G-Star. "A lot of them played hardcore games for the first time (on Facebook), and they said they love them."

Another Korean game developer is betting big on the development of a new social networking game with time and investment that matches the production of a blockbuster MMORPG.

During the G-Star, online game developer WeMade Entertainment Inc. gave the public its first look at "Hero Square," which has been developed for two years.

The role-playing game featuring short and chubby characters will be offered on Facebook sometime next year, the company said.

While early Facebook games grew by letting users see what games their Facebook friends play, such viral marketing is getting increasingly difficult on Facebook with tightening regulations.

Such a trend, Sukardi argued, could be favorable for developers of massive-scale strategic games like Korean game companies.

"It actually puts advantage in our model. We don't rely on viral (marketing)," the Kabam executive producer said. (Yonhap)

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