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Kartrider’s comeback driven by slacker status

Apr 26,2019
Crazyracing Kartrider, one of Korea’s all-time-favorite computer games, is getting a second wind as the owner, and the players, accept its easygoing play and slacker status.

The renewed popularity is a far cry from March last year, when Kartrider had less than a 0.5-percent share among all names played in PC cafes.

Understanding that gamers perceive Kartrider as low-effort entertainment played to kill time was critical in the casual racing game enjoying a second boom in a decade, said Kim Dong-hyun, project manager of Kartrider at the Nexon Developer Conference on Thursday.

He explained how Kartrider, a Nexon game, could regain fame in Korea during the three-day conference that kicked off Wednesday.

The conference, first held in 2007, hosts game developers and experts from around the world.

It is the largest game-related knowledge management conference in Korea, with 20,000 participants.

This year, the conference is focusing on sharing the development stories of Nexon’s popular games and the insights on the future of the gaming industry. It is also holding educational sessions for developer wannabes to learn how they can become successful.

“We found that users don’t like to put in too much effort and time in playing Kartrider,” Kim said. “They often treated Kartrider as a means to kill time while waiting for other big games to be updated and patched.”

Kartrider is a Mario Cart-like racing game that allows users to race against others online over a range of terrains and on a variety of tracks.

The game was widely popular when it was originally released in 2004. In the nine months after release, Kartrider attracted more than 11 million users and got its name on the top of the computer game rankings.

But since then, Kartrider had lost much of its popularity, becoming a low-profile game no longer remembered among Koreans, Kim said.

“Some of our users were even embarrassed to play Kartrider in PC cafes,” Kim said.

The racing game steadily lost its popularity since its heyday due to the massive influx of mobile games and increased competition from high-end games released by global game developers, Kim said.

Last year, the game company went full steam to attract gamers, and it has paid off.

According to Korean game industry tracker Gametrics, Kartrider was No. 7 in PC game rankings as of Thursday, with a 3.32-percent share among all labels played in Korean PC cafes.

Kim said he focused on making Kartrider easy and user-friendly. His team provided discounts for selected items and focused on making each user competitive quickly.

“I thought I knew everything about the game when I joined the team, but that was absolutely false,” Kim said. “I spent six hours a day playing Kartrider and could not figure out what items to buy to win matches.”

Publicity was also important, Kim said.

The Nexon project manager said the company posted advertisements on popular sites to let the public know that Kartrider was still in service.

The Kartrider team also gave users incentives to play the game at PC cafes.

“Increasing the number of Kartrider players in PC cafes is crucial,” he said. “There is the so-called ‘PC bang effect.’ If people find others at the cafes playing a game, they are also intrigued to try out that game.”

Kartrider will continue maintaining its “second-game” strategy in the future, he added.


BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]