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Game Producers Eye Lucrative Social Networking Market

Posted August. 26, 2010 14:37,   


What do Facebook, Naver, Blizzard Entertainment and Nexon have in common? They all seek to make their customers spend as much time as possible on their platforms.

In the past, companies had customers use their services on computers but companies now attract users around the clock by utilizing mobile phones and Internet TV.

Facebook is leading the way. The U.S.-based social networking site has created a big venue for people to meet friends, gain information, shop and play games. Users can connect with each other anytime and anywhere.

The company’s massive user base has allowed it to carve out new businesses such as social games. This is why social networking services, whose assets are human networks, have given ideas to other companies.

A case in point is game producers. They want to provide social networking services by banking on the estimated tens of millions of gamers worldwide. Through such services, they can allow gamers to connect through games and expand their customer base.

Min Gyeong-bae, chairman of the NGO studies department at Kyung Hee Cyber University, said, “Many companies including game producers are agonizing over whether to go places where people have already gathered such as Facebook or to assemble people by themselves by becoming social networking service providers.”

○ Games for communication

Nexon in April joined hands with likeminded people to create “Nexonbyul (Nexonstar),” an online social networking game. If a user wants to elegantly decorate his or her star, he or she must connect with others.

The new service is for Nexon gamers. The company said, “The service will link users of a Nexon portal site to each another and be expanded to non-gamers gradually.”

The new “Starcraft 2,” which made a comeback after a 12-year hiatus, has a strengthened communication function. Those who play Starcraft and “World of Warcraft (Wow)” by Blizzard Entertainment can communicate with one another through the company’s Web site battle.net.

Han Jung-won, in charge of Blizzard’s Northeast Asia operations, said, “I couldn’t contact one of my Japanese friends through e-mail but I could keep in touch with him by sending messages via a Wow account,” adding, “We enhanced a social function to turn games into a means of communication.”

Blizzard will link its services to Facebook this year.

NCsoft is running “Avatarbook” to allow game characters from across the world to communicate with one another. This virtual social networking service was created at the request of NCsoft President Kim Taek-jin, who urged his staff early this year to expand the basis of social networking.

In May, NCsoft gamers began communicating with their friends via Twitter while playing games. This allowed gamers to connect with one another through smartphones.

○ Attracting customers with network seeds

Seed money is required for business and “network seeds” are necessary for social networking services. The network seeds for Facebook were students at Harvard University.

Game companies have a huge user base to draw from. Some 20 million people play Nexon’s games. Members of Net Marble of CJ Internet number more than 30 million. If the 27 million members of SK Communications, a company with whom CJ has recently joined forces, are added, the combined number will soar.

Based on the large number of members, game producers seek to enable new consumers to access and play games anytime and anywhere.

Seo Seung-myo of CJ Internet said, “Alcohol was the basis for building human networks in the past. But in this fast-paced society, people will promote personal connections through games.”

Byeon Kwang-june, an information and communications professor at Ajou University in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, said, “Those who play social games think they`re using social networking services to communicate with others instead of playing games.”