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The State Of Korea: Console Games
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The State Of Korea: Console Games

August 14, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

PSP & DS Take Center Stage

The launch of PSP in mid-2005 further helped to solidify Sony's number one position atop the Korean videogame industry. Cool advertising and various instances of specific catering to Korean audiences quickly made PSP the hottest item around, coveted by just about everybody. Before much time had elapsed, however, Sony's advertising for the product (and for PS2, it should be noted) seemed to quietly fade away, and in this window of opportunity, Nintendo's DS started to silently make its approach.

While PSP was (and continues to be) quite popular, the vast majority of those who bring it along on their daily commute use it for watching movies. Sure, there have always been those who play Lumines and Ridge Racer on the train (interestingly, the former is still the game you see people playing most), but people figured out from the get-go that PSP isn't exactly the ideal system for playing simple games in short bursts, something that Koreans love.

In theory, then, Nintendo's DS, with its plethora of pick-up-and-play titles and universal appeal already demonstrated in Japan and the West, was a perfect match for the Korean market. The only problem was that no one knew it existed, and things remained this way for a very long time. Daiwon advertising for the portable was almost nonexistent, as was any sort or retail presence. Still, little by little, the original DS 'Phat' started showing up on the subway, most owners having ordered it online or made the purchase at Yongsan, where the buzz was growing every day. It wasn't until DS lite's early-2006 release in Japan, though, that things really started to pick up steam.

By that time, the Korean online community (which is basically everyone under the age of forty) had all started to hear about the portable's unstoppable success in Japan with odd titles such as Nintendogs and Brain Training, and people were anxious to find out more.

When pictures of the lite redesign hit, interest reached new heights, and as soon as it launched in Japan, expensive (and illegitimate) imports started showing up and selling out at Yongsan on a daily basis.

Soon after this, news hit of NCL president Satoru Iwata's renewed interest in the Korean market, and of his plans to establish Nintendo of Korea, finally putting an end to the unfruitful Daiwon era. This turned out to be a slow process, however, and in the meantime, while DS Lite saw a semi-official release, it was still well off the radar and difficult to find, holding it back from mainstream success.

Once December of 2006 hit, though, everything changed. Nintendo of Korea came charging out of the gates with a barrage of slick commercials featuring some of Korea's biggest stars playing DS titles like Brain Age and New Super Mario Bros., heralding the release of the official Korean language DS Lite, affordably priced and available everywhere. On the marketing end, these moves were both well planned and well timed, and in no time flat, Nintendo's dual-screened portable became the hottest thing around.

This momentum has largely been maintained since then, and Sony has done little to answer it. Ask any retailer at Yongsan, and they'll tell you that for the past six months, sales of DS games have been their biggest source of income. (As Yongsan merchants generally sell hardware for less than its MSRP, all profit is made from other transactions.) On that note, it'll be interesting to see what kind of reception Sony's PSP Slim gets upon its Korean release later this year.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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