South Korean publisher Netmarble has sparked excitement in the K-pop fan world by announcing the release of a mobile simulation game produced in collaboration with boy band phenomenon BTS.
At a press conference on Feb. 6, Netmarble revealed that the game will hit app stores in the first half of 2018, making the publisher the latest South Korean game company to tap into the $4.7 billion K-pop industry.
Titled BTS World, the game will allow users to manage and “train” members of BTS, which has been K-pop’s hottest presence since 2017.
“We’re experimenting with a new genre by collaborating with BTS,” Netmarble official Hyun Dae-jun told Korea Exposé. “We’ve worked with K-pop stars before, but just as models. This is the first time we’ve incorporated them into an actual game.”
BTS World features musical and visual content — over 10,000 photos and 100 videos — created exclusively for the game, Netmarble founder Bang Jun-hyeok told reporters at the press event. Bang said Netmarble needed to take new measures as foreign players in the games industry, especially Chinese companies, continued to encroach upon markets in South Korea and overseas.
Incorporating new forms of content such as drama and music into games was one way for Netmarble to keep up with the competition, Bang claimed.
K-pop stars have been featured in numerous games in the past. Members of Girls’ Generation became the faces of online game Blade and Soul when it was exported to China in 2013 by South Korean game developer NCsoft, while 2PM and Miss A are other examples of K-pop stars recruited by local game makers to represent them overseas.
But when it comes to injecting K-pop stars directly into games, efforts made since the early 2000s have borne mixed results. BoA, a solo singer and the first non-Japanese to top Japan’s Oricon Chart, became the main character for simulation game BoA in the World in 2003. In it, players assumed the role of BoA’s manager while taking on multiple challenges, but its archaic interface and design and lack of novelty deprived it of success.
Despite this, BoA’s company, Seoul-based music conglomerate SM Entertainment, didn’t give up. In 2014, it incorporated Girls’ Generation, its most popular K-pop group at the time, into a tap-dancing game called Superstar SMTOWN. This product fared better, reportedly clocking more than 500,000 downloads within a month of its release.
At the same press conference on Feb. 6, Netmarble announced record sales of 2.42 trillion won ($2.2 billion) in 2017, placing it ahead of chief rival Nexon and making it the biggest game publisher in South Korea (and ninth-biggest in the world).
Cover image: BTS at the 31st Golden Disk Awards in 2017 (Source: AJEONG_JM via Wikimedia Commons)