How did South Korea become one of the top 3 Global Esports Markets of the World?

Case Study Mar 27, 2022

South Korea - the home of so many developers, games, and gamers is rightfully among the top 3 Global Esports Market of the world. Even though Esports was once considered "evil" in South Korea, it is impressive to see South Korea occupying this spot. In the past few years, so many world-famous Esports players belonged to Korea. Hence, making it a hub of the emerging Esports industry. In this blog, we'll be talking in detail about Korea's ever-growing Esports industry and how it made it to the top 3.

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Image from Toplal

The emergence of the Esports industry in South Korea

Various countries like the USA and Germany developed the early market of Esports. However, in no other country did Esports become more popular than in South Korea (henceforth, Korea) in the late 1990s, which established Seoul as the home of Esports. When Blizzard Entertainment (2018) offered Seoul the opportunity to host the Hearthstone

Championship Tour in May 2018, is also called Seoul the unofficial capital of esports as well. The initial years in the popularity of Esports, i.e. the 1990s were the giving of PC Bangs. Now, you must be thinking about what are PC Bangs. We all know that PCs weren't that affordable during the late 90s and early 2000s, so the gamers used PC Bangs to play games. It simply means the Internet cafes that were a very common occurrence during that period. The interesting thing about these PC Bangs is that even though Internet cafes are not in the scene anymore because of the easy availability of PCs and mobile phones at home, these PC Bangs provide much more than just the fast-speed Internet. PC Bangs provided a place for young Koreans to play together, socialize, eat and even study together at times. While gaming and the Internet cafes trend is going down worldwide, PC Bangs, on the other hand, is helping the Korea Esports scene a great deal. As per a report, the number of PC Bangs is more than 25,000 in South Korea and almost all of them are doing great, business-wise. Now, if we think clearly about it, it'd make much more sense why Koreans are taking the top spots in the Esports industry.

How has the Esports industry grown so much?

This is an important factor to be considered if we're talking about the growth of the Esports industry in South Korea. Are you aware of the Cinderella law which was imposed in South Korea, but ended some time ago? As per this law, it prevented underage players from gaming between midnight and 6 AM. When it was introduced in 2011, the law was established to prevent gaming addiction for children since it has become a very common occurrence in children these days. Given such circumstances, it is remarkable for South Korea to achieve such a feat which led it to replace the USA in the top 3.

Let us take a look at the reasons that helped the Esports industry to grow so much in South Korea.
  • Spectators: It is one of the most important factors to consider if we're looking at the growing statistics. With technological advancements every coming day, spectatorship has taken a new turn and has become very easy now. The increased number of spectators is a major spur for the boom in the Esports market because the players not only play for earning or for themselves anymore, they play for an audience too just like other regular sports.
  • Shift to mobile phone gaming: Gaming is not limited to PC anymore. In recent years, Mobile gaming has overtaken the popularity of PC games. The easy availability and affordability of mobile phones has led to more and more people indulging in the Esports industry and even making a proper career out of it.
  • Professional Tournaments: Since gaming is also counted as a profession, organizers and gaming companies are increasing the number of professional tournaments which has given a major boost to the Esports industry. The number of Esports players is gradually increasing with youngsters constituting the maximum part of it.
  • COVID: A major factor- we cannot deny the mere fact that the pandemic played a very big role in giving the Esports industry, the players, and gamers the recognition they deserved. Sitting at home during the lockdown was heavily responsible for the boost in stats that state, as of 2020, the market value of South Korea’s gaming market amounted to around 18.89 trillion South Korean won which is expected to grow by the market value of 23.46 trillion won in 2023.

Statistics and facts

The statistics show a clear picture of the growth of any industry. So, let us take a look at some interesting facts and figures about the South Korean Esports market.

As per Statista,
Following are a few MARKET SIZES:

Sales revenue of mobile gaming

10.8tr KRW

Sales revenue of PC gaming

4.9tr KRW

Sales revenue of arcade gaming

227.2bn KRW

Similarly, if we take a look at the statistics on PC Bangs:

Sales revenue of PC bangs

1.78r KRW

The most played game in PC bangs

League of Legends

Most played genre in PC bangs

Real-time strategy

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Image from Statista

This also shows that League of Legends is a very famous game among South Korean players.

Now, let us take a look at some interesting facts about the South Korean gaming industry. As per

  • The South Korean gaming market ranks 4th Worldwide in Terms of Mobile Gaming.
  • South Korea’s 56% Gamer Penetration Beats China by a Considerable Margin.

It is evident from the above facts and figures that the gaming market in South Korea is one to reckon with.

This blog throws some light on the initial years of the growing Esports Industry in South Korea and how it reached the position it is at today. Esports players from South Korea have made a name for themselves worldwide. There's no denying the fact that South Korean Esports industry is only going to grow in the coming years with increased digitization and ever-growing technological advancements.

Drop your views in the comment section on this blog.

Until next time,