[games releasing in march 2020]China gives Black Desert game a mobile license

  [PEARL ABYSS]

  [PEARL ABYSS]

  Pearl Abyss’ mobile version of Black Desert received a license to launch in China, a heavily regulated market for local game companies.

  Black Desert Mobile made it onto a list of 43 games that received licenses announced by the Chinese government on Monday.

  Launched in 2018, the game is a mobile version of Pearl Abyss’ hit computer game of the same name. It is currently in more than 150 countries.

  Under a policy implemented in July 2016, every digital game in China needs approval for release regardless of the publisher’s nationality.

  Getting the nod is difficult for any publisher but even tougher for local companies after Korea allowed the deployment of a American antimissile system in 2017.

  From March 2017 to December 2020, no Korean game succeeded in obtaining a license, which analysts described as Chinese retaliation for the deployment.

  A breakthrough came last December with mid-sized developer Com2uS’s mobile game Summoners War: Sky Arena. Two months later, another Korean game, Rooms, made by indie developer Handmade Game, received a license.

  That makes Black Desert Mobile the third Korea-made game to receive a license after relations between the countries soured.

  Black Desert was a big success in Korea. It was ranked the third most anticipated mobile game release at 17173, China’s largest game-related website, according to Pearl Abyss.

  In China, Black Desert Mobile will be distributed by iDreamSky, a Tencent-backed game company that accounts for more than 20 percent of local market. Netmarble and iDreamSky signed a publishing contract in March 2019. That same year, the Chinese partner submitted a request to obtain the license.

  “We’re working closely with our partner at the moment for doing business in China,” the Korean company said in a statement. “Our efforts will be focused on localizing the game and meeting expectations there.”

  Pearl Abyss, the third largest company by market cap on Korea’s secondary Kosdaq market, saw its stock price soar 20 percent Tuesday to 74,400 won from the previous trading day.

  A big question raised every time a Korean game receives a business license in China is whether doors are reopening for other companies.

  In 2016, before the missile shield controversy, China accounted for half of Korea’s entire game exports, $3.3 billion. China’s game market was estimated at 278.6 billion yuan ($43.1 billion) last year, according to the Korea Creative Content Agency.

  Kim Hak-joon, a game analyst at Kiwoom Securities, noted that Korean games managed to be included in a batch of China-approved games for the third time in a row, starting from December.

  “The number of foreign games included on the list is expected to significantly increase this year,” he wrote in a Tuesday report. In all of 2020, 97 games made outside of China received nods. As of June of this year, the number had already reached 76.

  “Based on the fact that Korean companies made it onto list three times in a row and the number of approved foreign games is increasing, it’s reasonable to say that more licenses will be approved for Korean games in the year’s second half,” he added.

  Wi Jong-hyun, an economics professor at Chung-Ang University and president of the Korea Academic Society of Games, was more dubious, saying this isn’t a sign of China opening up. His opinion is that Beijing is offering game licenses little by little, as bait to keep Korea on the hook as the U.S. administration continues its trade war with China.

  “Isolation is what China fears the most — this is the perfect time to make a more aggressive move and request Beijing to issue more licenses,” Wi said.

  “Compared to what’s given to the U.S., Japan or Europe, the number of licenses given to Korea is absurd. We should strongly make our stance based on these figures. The problem is that the government and local game companies are ignoring this or hiding from the facts.”

  BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]