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Nexon, the publisher of popular online games like Dungeon Fighter Online, has appointed Min Kim as the chief executive at its important North American business unit, replacing Daniel Kim, who will return to Seoul to take on new duties at the parent company.
The leadership change is interesting since Nexon is one of the most promising online game companies in Asia (it raised $1 billion in an initial public offering last December) and is amid an expansion in the U.S. and Europe. Other high-profile game companies such as Zynga and OnLive have hit hard times, but Nexon continues to grow.
Min Kim was previously serving as Nexon America’s senior vice president of Live Games, and he oversaw game production and marketing. In 2005, he helped establish Nexon America and launched MapleStory in North America. That game became the first commercially successful free-to-play, microtransaction-based game in North America. Now free-to-play games are sweeping through every part of the industry. Min Kim also helped with the adoption of digital content cards — which consumers purchase and then activate so they can buy things in online games — at retail.
Daniel Kim helped the company (which grew up in Seoul and moved its headquarters to Tokyo) move into new categories such as more casual social games on Facebook.
“We thank Daniel for his many contributions and leadership in North America and look forward to leveraging his talents in Korea to help continue to grow Nexon’s business,” said Seungwoo Choi, the president and CEO of Nexon. “Looking ahead, Nexon is extremely well-positioned to capture the growth opportunities in North America enabled by the ongoing proliferation of high-speed broadband and the increasing popularity of the free-to-play business model. Min has been with Nexon America from the beginning and brings exceptional expertise, industry depth and leadership to this role. He is the right person to lead Nexon America forward.”
In an interview with GamesBeat, Min Kim thanked Daniel Kim for his service. Daniel’s family was still based in Seoul and so he wanted to return to them, after 3.5 years in the U.S. office, which Min Kim started in Koreatown. The office is now in El Segundo, Calif., in greater Los Angeles, and it has more than 200 employees. The company’s big games include MapleStory, Maginogi, Combat Arms, Sudden Attack, Atlantica Online, Dragon Nest, Vindictus, and the previously mentioned Dungeon Fighter Online.
“I’m very excited, as this is my ninth year at Nexon,” Min Kim said. “Daniel has done an amazing job of growing the company. Nexon America has always been a growth story, and I’m fully committed to pushing it forward.”
Min Kim started at Nexon in 2003 and in 2005 he helped produce MapleStory for the worldwide market and set up servers for the international launch. At the time, he faced a lot of skeptics who said free-to-play games would never succeed in the U.S. But they have and now the growth is spiraling upwards.
“We have been in the shadow of the game consoles for many years in the U.S.,” Kim said. “But now the PC is where the excitement is.”
Min Kim underscored that point by throwing a huge party for PC gamers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles in June. While the rest of the console game industry and major players such as Zynga and OnLive are hurting, Min Kim said, “We’re in good shape.”
The social and mobile efforts are headed out of Korea. So Kim will continue to focus on the core massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), based upon the free-to-play model.
Min Kim servers on the board of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, the Americas Advisory Board for the Merchant Risk Council, and the board of advisors for the Game Developers Conference Online. Prior to Nexon, he was an investment banking analyst in the media group of Salomon Smith Barney in New York.