Moving fast into Asia, social game publisher Kabam plans to open an office in Seoul, South Korea, to run live operations and localize its mobile titles.
It’s a small move for now, but it could prove strategic as Kabam continues its path toward a worldwide audience and a possible initial public offering. South Korea is one of the world’s hottest mobile game markets, with huge growth thanks to mobile messaging platform Kakao Talk. And this week’s big tech stories show the importance of worldwide audiences and messaging apps — Facebook shelled out billions for WhatsApp, a messaging app with a titanic reach outside the U.S., and social gaming publisher King.com (the maker of Candy Crush Saga) filed for an IPO.
San Francisco-based Kabam will open the office in April in the Sinsa-dong district of Seoul. The staff of 11 employees will occupy a 5,000-square-feet office that will handle live operations, localization, quality assurance, marketing, and player-experience services dedicated to the South Korean market.
“Korea is a major center for Kabam’s global expansion,” said Kevin Chou, Kabam’s cofounder and CEO, in a statement. “The Seoul office will help Kabam deliver our world-class games and service to this thriving market.”
Kabam said South Korea is increasingly important as it distributes its games into Asia. The company has set up a $50 million fund to encourage third parties to use Kabam as a publisher in the global market. Kabam was founded as a Facebook gaming company four years ago, and it now has 750 employees.
Kabam reported revenue of $360 million in 2013, up 100 percent from the year before. Kabam expects to generate $175 million to $200 million in revenues from third-party titles in 2014. The company has 23 developer partners who are working on 30 titles.
Market researcher AppAnnie said that game apps surpassed revenue from other types of digital games as spending in South Korea shifted from mobile web games to game apps. The country leads the world in 4G wireless data penetration, and it is the first country in the world to reach more than 50 percent LTE (Long-Term Evolution) subscribers (who can get faster data access). South Korea could very well overtake Japan (where GungHo Entertainment’s Puzzle and Dragons makes millions a day in microtransactions) in per capita mobile spend, according to AppAnnie.