The Korean trade mission was the first game specific trade mission from Ireland and it was organised by the goverment agency, EI. The participating companies included Selatra from Cork, Nephin Games, StarCave and VirTecCo from Galway and Vyro Games from Dublin. While all except VirTecCo are operating in, or aiming to target the mobile games space, the aim of the trade mission was to brief the companies and officials on the Korean Digital Media and Games market and to arrange one to one business meetings with Korean game companies.

EI now has a local office in Seoul and working with the KGDI they developed an intensive agenda for the three days, which left no ground for any accusations of junkets! The agenda included networking and one to one business meetings, visits to PC bangs, PS2 cafes and the X-box sponsored Sejoong Game World, which has 50 Xbox units, three DVD rooms, 90 PCs and a cafe. The group were also shown around KGDI’s incubation centre for game companies and their equivalent of the Digital Hub – the Digital Media City. In the remaining time the group attended sessions at the Korea Games Conference which had almost 800 participants and keynote speakers from the US, the UK, Japan and Korea.

Alan Duggan of Nephin Games commented that ‘Our expectation of the mission was greatly exceeded, due primarily to the huge efforts of Enterprise Ireland’s local representative, Diane Rhee, and all the SkyVenture team particularly JayDee and AJ.’ He went on to add that ‘The visit confirmed that with the right business models and appropriate use of technology, all parties in the mobile gaming value chain from gamers to game developers can benefit…(and) despite cultural differences, Irish developers have a lot to offer Korea.’

For Sean Cronin of Selatra the trip was especially useful. He told us that he met with 7 potential partners through arranged meetings and had 3 other meeting with newly discovered companies during the week. He noted that ‘meeting the 3 carriers was a big bonus as the games companies I met afterwards were impressed that I’d already met with the SG telecom main man for Games Je Sang Moon (known as the ‘Game God’ by the developers). In all we will probably partner with 3 players, who are best set up to deal locally with format conversion economically. We will take games from them all.’

The companies also benefited from the experience Korean companies had accumulated in their dealings with other Asian countries. Sean Cronin again informed us that ‘advice on the Korean’s experience in China has been very enlightening for me … many have been burned and not realized the revenues they anticipated.’ Selatra plans to ‘ have games (with) the Korean operators by Christmas, either directly or indirectly. We will also be internationalizing some Korean games and distributing these to the USA, Europe. As a result of the visit we have decided to now include Brew games in our portfolio and use Korean partners as our outsourced conversion facility. This will, hopefully, lead to penetration of the USA and generate new revenues there for us in 2005.’

Michael Kenna was struck by the outstanding level of courtesy and cooperation that the participants experienced from both government officials and companies. The feedback from the Irish companies, he said, augured well for future business development and the visit established a tremendous foundation for further interaction between Irish and Korean games companies. He added that he hoped other Irish companies would be encouraged to build on this initiative and to further exploit the opportunities that the visit has helped to identify.

Next year the Korean Games Conference is being enlarged into an international Game Expo combining a trade expo with conference and seminars, a buyers lounge and events. It might just be worth checking out if you are interested in the online and mobile games market – or their Costume Play and Game Character Show!

Our pack for the trade mission included a very helpful guide to doing business in Korea – the key tips were – dress formal, always have business cards and learn the correct way to hand over your card to the other person. We didn’t learn much Korean but Ko Sam Y Da (my own phonetic spelling of thank you!) might be useful if you find yourself in that part of the world.

For more:

See Sept., 20, 2004, Fortune magazine, ‘Broadband Wonderland.’
2004 ‘The Rise of Korean Games. Guide to Korean Game Industry and Culture.’

Korean Game Development Institute (KGDI)-

Date for your diary:
Game Expo Korea 2005, Nov. 10-12, KINTEX, Korea.

Keep an eye on the Enterprise Ireland website for future trade missions.