Mario gets ready to jump into the Korean marketSome interesting news for the small yet growing number of console gamers in Korea: Nintendo is going to open an office here. Believe it or not, the company has operations in about 20 countries, but not in its neighboring, game-crazed country, Korea.
The Japanese-based game firm announced its plans for a Seoul division last Thursday in a shareholder’s meeting and later posted it on its Web site. The investment will be 3 billion yen ($30 million), it said. Nintendo explained that the affiliate would be wholly owned by the mother company and that it would focus on selling portable game machines, such as the Nintendo DS, which can run Korean-language software. Until now, most Nintendo products in Korea did not support hangul. The division will also be in charge of marketing and after-sales services.
Currently, Koam NanoBio acts as the company’s agent here. Nintendo declined to speculate on what would happen after its sets up its local arm, but said it expects to continue its distribution service.
This announcement comes at an extremely sensitive time. Although most game players seem uninterested in “real world” politics, Korea and Japan are in a very tense situation right now regarding the Dokdo islets. Both countries are claiming the waters around the rocks as their territory.
Analysts in the game industry noted that Nintendo’s venture into the Korean market is simply about earning money and not about nationalistic sentiments, noting that Nintendo’s current president, Satoru Iwata, is different from his predecessor, Hiroshi Yamauchi, who said bluntly that he wasn’t interested in operations in Korea.
Nintendo’s entry into Korea also signifies a culture import of a different sort; it has been only four years since the Korean government allowed the imports of Japanese console games. In April 2002, Nintendo introduced its Game Boy Advance handset and Pokemon software through Koam NanoBio, which was known then as Daiwon C.I.
In December that year, it released its GameCube, and more recently, the Nintendo DS. Nintendo’s presence in Korea, however, accounted for less than 5 percent of the local console game market, which is dominated by Sony, also a Japanese company.
by Wohn Dong-hee