A majority share (52.4%) of Korean-headquartered game developer Gravity Corp, the creator of popular Asian MMO Ragnarok Online, has been sold to Japanese fund companies TechnoGroove Inc., and EZER, both affiliated with giant Japanese technology company Softbank Group. The stock was previously held by Gravity founder Kim Jung-ryool, whose 3.6 million private shares have sold for 40 billion yen ($359 million), based on an initial investment of 500 million won ($500,000) just 5 years ago.
Softbank’s online publishing branch GungHo was already the owner of the Japanese license for Ragnarok, which is still growing in the region, so the two make a likely pair. As of this writing, the game operates in 37 countries, with a total subscriber base of 34 million. It was this international approach to which Kim attributes the game’s success.
But recently, Kim's firm had issues entering the NASDAQ, including multiple class-action suits by U.S. investors, and this was one of his primary reasons for selling. In an interview with Korean IT publication JoongAng Daily, he commented: "I felt as though I had reached my personal limit in trying to develop Gravity," continuing, "By becoming part of Softbank, which has a wide distribution network for games, Gravity should inch one step closer to being a global company."
With Ragnarok 2 about to enter a closed beta phase, Ragnarok Online still going strong, and the recent release of Emil Chronicle Online, a game in a similar genre of fantasy MMO, GungHo certainly has a lot on its plate. The 52 year old Kim, a 30 year veteran of the game industry, is not out for the count, though. "With the money from the sale, I am considering investing in games for cell phones or personal digital assistants," he added to JoongAng, stating that he envisions cell phone games overtaking the online market in the future.