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Game brains Kim, Song and Park doing battle once again

Nov 04,2019
From left: Kim Taek-jin, Song Jae-kyung, Park Yong-hyun
The biggest game in Korea is perhaps the battle between the country’s three biggest game makers, especially as they strive to take leadership in the winter season.

The year-end has traditionally been the peak period for sales as winter vacation brings in more users, and the company that does well during that time usually maintains good performance into the new year.

The local game market has recently suffered stagnation. Operating profits of the three major companies - Nexon, Netmarble and NCSoft - declined by 19 to 46.6 percent in the second quarter on year. However, expectations are running high that the new releases will be able to breathe in fresh life into the market.

According to industry sources, NCSoft’s much-anticipated Lineage 2M has a commanding lead.

“Tech-wise, there is no game that can match Lineage 2M,” said NCSoft CEO and COO Kim Taek-jin. The game’s release is expected in November at the earliest, but it has already attracted 7 million pre-orders.

There is a challenger.

In October, Song Jae-kyung, CEO of XL Games introduced a game called Legendary Moonlight Sculptor, currently being hosted by Kakao Games, a game-developing and publishing subsidiary of internet company Kakao.

Based on the fantasy novel with the same title, it is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (Mmorpg). Users can engage in various activities, such as hunting, collecting and cooking, inside the game, which is based on the fictional world of the novel. The game is currently ranked third on Google Play’s app store by sales in the game category.

The top place is taken by NCSoft’s Lineage M.

Park Yong-hyun, CEO of Nexon affiliate Nat Games, is another contender. V4, the new title from the game developing company, is expected to be released on Nov. 7. It will be hosted by Nexon Korea. The game drew concerns over its “competitiveness compared to other games,” but it’s getting the spotlight because of interesting features: large-scale battles between users and the “command mode,” where a guild leader can give orders to each user. Already, 240,000 members have joined V4’s official online fan club.

The three leaders of the Korean game industry have a rather complex history. At one time, they all worked for NCSoft. Song Jae-kyung was called the “father of Lineage.” Later, Song co-founded Nexon with Kim Jung-ju, his colleague from Seoul National University and the current CEO of NXC.

The marriage fell apart.

While developing a game called “The Kingdom of the Winds,” the two brilliant minds collided with different ideas, which drove Song to quit Nexon and move to NCSoft to lead the development of Lineage.

This didn’t work out. Song had disagreements with NCSoft CEO Kim Taek-jin, and he called it quits, liquidating 0.73 percent of NCSoft shares he owned and starting his own company.

Song did recover relationships with Kim Jung-ju and Kim Taek-jin. Recently, he was also seen having tea with Kim Taek-jin in Pangyo, Gyeonggi.

Nat Games CEO Park Yong-hyun, who was the head producer of “Lineage 2,” also had a conflict with Kim Taek-jin while developing “Lineage 3,” and he left the company in March 2007.

Though NCSoft gave him credit for improving game graphics of Lineage 2, Park was entangled in a legal battle with the company for allegedly leaking trade secrets of “Lineage 3” during his transfer to Bluehole (currently Krafton).

Bitterness still lingers on both sides. Park’s new mobile game “Heroes of Incredible Tales” was a success, and he later partnered with Nexon.

“It’s welcoming news that new games are being released one after another at a time when the game market is having difficult times,” said an industry source.

“But it’s quite intriguing that Song and Park, both of whom had a history with NCSoft CEO Kim Taek-jin, actually maintain a friendship with NXC CEO Kim Jung-ju, a rival of Kim Taek-jin. Though Song and Park are friends with Kim Jung-ju, they are competing with each other with their new Mmorpg titles.”

BY LEE SOO-KI [kim.byungwook@joongang.co.kr ]


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