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Biggest G-Star ever opens doors

NCSoft and Nexon sit it out, but 691 other companies show up
Nov 15,2019
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Visitors to G-Star 2019 play mobile games at the four-day event that kicked off Thursday in Haeundae, Busan. Held for the 15th time, the annual festival saw 691 companies open booths this year. [YONHAP]
Korea’s largest game exhibition G-Star renewed its record for the largest number of booths this year, despite two of Korea’s big three game publishers skipping the event.

The four-day exhibition kicked off in Busan on Thursday, attended by 691 companies from 36 countries. Held for the 15th time this year, the annual event is Korea’s largest gathering for game enthusiasts and game publishers that present products preparing for release the following year. A total of 3,208 spaces were available at G-Star 2019, an 8.2 percent increase from last year.

“Pre-applications to set up booths at G-Star’s business-to-consumer section were full within two hours, not to mention the business-to-business section raised results better than last year’s,” said Kang Shin-chul, who heads the organizing committee.

“We’ll have to wait until the weekend, but for now, the volume of visitors and the companies present don’t seem to fall short compared to last year,” said an industry source that also attended the event last year.

This year’s G-Star had its share of concerns that started months before it began. Nexon, the No. 1 game publisher in Korea, decided to skip the event for the first time ever. Having taken up the largest booth in size last year, the company said it wants to “focus on internal service development.” Nexon had issues regarding its ownership this year after founder Kim Jung-ju’s attempt to sell a 99 percent stake in parent company NXC, which eventually didn’t go through.

NCSoft has skipped G-Star for four years. The company recently launched its long-awaited mobile game Lineage 2M and is looking to concentrate resources on it, instead of releasing a wide lineup in the near future.

Netmarble was the only one of the “three Ns” to take part in G-Star this year, introducing four new mobile game releases for 2020. Its booth holds 250 smartphones and tablets that visitors can use to play the new games ahead of release.

The absence of leading game companies created space for smaller Korean publishers. Among them, the most prominent was Pearl Abyss, which developed the hit online game Black Desert that has raked in 1.33 trillion won ($1 billion) in revenue.

Another notable point was the increased presence of global gamers at the event. The main sponsor for this year’s G-Star was Finland’s Supercell, which China’s Tencent holds an 84 percent stake in. YouTube, Google and Epic Games, last year’s main sponsors, set up booths as well.

While some say this represents a step back for major Korean game publishers, others say the trend shift isn’t all bad.

“Until two years ago, G-Star was carried by Korea’s top game companies,” said an industry source. “More global companies showing interest is a sign that G-Star isn’t just an internal game show anymore.”

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