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The first company that figures out how to monetize word-of-mouth marketing is probably going to make a lot of money — oh, wait. Kakao is already doing that.

The South Korean messaging app KakaoTalk, which is also one of the biggest app-distribution platforms in the world, announced today that it has reached a total of 500 million downloads. That means that its users have clicked a link in its app, gone into the iOS App Store or Google Play, and downloaded software more than half a billion times. Kakao, along with its partner studios, offers these games on the chat app, players talk about them with one another, and then Kakao takes a cut of the revenue when someone installs it. This has helped the company bring in over $1 billion since adding games two years ago.

KakaoTalk now has over 145 million monthly active users, and it delivers over 6.5 billion messages every day. While it is popular in South Korea as well as in Japan (although less so), it doesn’t have much of a presence in the West, where WhatsApp is dominant.

“KakaoTalk has already become the greatest single source for driving mobile-game downloads from the App Store and Google Play Store,” reads a Kakao blog post. “No other source for mobile-game discovery even comes close to driving as many downloads.”

WhatsApp’s More Colorful Asian Rivals

Chat apps like Kakao, WeChat, and Line are massive in Asian markets. Developers in South Korea, Japan, and China rarely attempt to launch new games in those countries outside of those platforms, which is very different than in the West.

Kakao now has over 230 partners that it works with, and it has promoted more than 450 games on its service. The company revealed that every game it promotes reaches the top 10 on the most-downloaded chart on Android’s Google Play, which is an astonishing feat. It also explains why developers in Asia are lining up to work with Kakao.

The company provided an infogrpahic that illustrates some of its growth over the last few years:



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