Why is the number of Kakao gamers dropping? And why are the games so similar?

App stats service AppRanker, has released Android game figures for April which show that the number of Kakao users has decreased by up to 20% since February. Both the number of daily active users (DAU) and visitors have dropped significantly, something which Korean insiders had previously predicted according to ET News.

Data from April puts the number of DAU for the top 20 Android apps at 15.1 million users, a 10% decrease from the previous month. On the other hand, market share has grown for Kakao games and of the top 20 Android games, 17 of those were Kakao-based with 94.56% of DAU. With Kakao’s hold on the game market, other developers not using the platform are finding it hard to gain the attention of domestic smartphone users and enter the top ranks.

Screen shot 2013-05-17 at 7.51.02 PMIt has been nearly 10 months since Kakao launched its game platform which became an instant success. According to the company it has been earning a monthly revenue of apprixmately $40 million and that there are now well over 100 games. While some were initially skeptical about whether the platform would prove successful, doubts soon disappeared with the first hit game Anipang, later being hailed as a “national game”.

An interesting development over the past couple of months is that last year’s hit game Anipang made its way back to the number one spot again, but didn’t come away completely unscathed – losing 10% of its users. Anipang continues to be successful as it is also popular with older smartphone users who are more likely to stick with something familiar and not switch to newer games. This, plus the fact that the game only lasts for one minute means that people can play it without having to worry about “staying alive”, as is the case in other popular games.

Before Anipang made its way back to first place, arcade game Wind Runner from well known developer WeMade had been enjoying success, as bigger companies now try to catch up with startups that were first to find success on Kakao’s Game Center. Other major companies include conglomerate CJ E&M, the developers of “Everybody Chachacha” and the sequel “Everybody Pungpungpung”. Startups who previously stuck to being independent are also making the move, with developer Devsisters releasing Cookie Run, a Kakao version of its previously successful game Oven Break.

While the novelty of “Kakao gaming” may have warn off for some, it’s not going anywhere fast, with hardcore games expected to be the next big thing for the platform. In the beginning, development of more in-depth and hardcore games seemed to come to a halt after companies saw the profits of first movers on the platform. Startups and other companies scrambled to make new casual games or convert existing products to match the similar format made up of a limited number of plays, in-app transactions and the same goal of reaching more points than other Kakao friends.

Are people becoming bored with the number of clones and similar style games on Kakao’s Game Center?

Early startups such as SundayToz and NextFloor were lucky, but now that bigger companies with much more resources and funds are pouring money into games, mobile game startups are once again fighting to stay above the competition. WeMade alone has plans to put out 30 new games this year and has been advertising aggressively in buses and subways cars. However, funding isn’t everything and the quality of some of these games is debatable.

While there are indeed other types of games which stray from the typical Kakao format such as ‘I Love Coffee’ and ‘Hello Hero’, it’s not difficult to see that most of the games on Kakao’s game center are extremely similar in nature. Of course there is nothing wrong with casual games and the reason they have done so well on Kakao’s platform is because they mesh well with the Korean culture of following trends, being connected to one another and the fact that the games don’t take up a lot of time. Games being easy to control with slight hand movements is also a bonus as many commuters play games while they are stuck between peoples in the crowds of Seoul’s subway system and buses.

Nevertheless it will be exciting to keep a look out for more in-depth mobile games whether on the Kakao network or not, to quench the thirst of more dedicated gamers.  One exciting upcoming title is Mother of Myth from startup Playnery, a MMORPG compatible on all platforms. It would also be great to see more original titles from casual games and less clones (I’m looking at you ‘Pang’ apps!).

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