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The Korea Herald
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THE INVESTOR
July 16, 2024

Economy

[Hello India] Krafton eyes bigger footing in India

  • PUBLISHED :June 05, 2024 - 16:32
  • UPDATED :June 05, 2024 - 16:32
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Sohn Hyun-il, CEO of Krafton India (Krafton)

Krafton, the developer of the popular shooting game PUBG: Battlegrounds, is looking to go beyond the boundaries of its main sector -- developing and publishing games -- in India in the long term as the company is focused on becoming a local publisher offering popular games in the world’s most populous country.

“The biggest goal for now is to become a true local publisher that publishes games beloved by the Indian game market besides BGMI,“ said Sohn Hyun-il, CEO of Krafton India, in a video interview with The Korea Herald on Monday, referring to the immensely popular shooting game Battlegrounds Mobile India specifically developed for the local market.

“On top of that, our mid- to long-term goal is to enter into new businesses other than publishing (games) through (merger and acquisition) or internal team building.”

Sohn, who leads the Korean game developer’s Indian office, explained that the impression of Krafton actively carrying out investments has been formed in the local startup sector, adding that this opens up the doors for early-stage companies to seek after Krafton’s investment.

Krafton has invested 228.1 billion won ($165.8 million) in the Indian market, a little over half of the 400-billion-won investment pledge the company announced in August last year.

According to Sohn, Krafton operates two offices in India: one in Bengaluru, known as the Silicon Valley of India for the burgeoning IT industry there, and another in Delhi, a union territory of India containing the country’s capital city New Delhi.

“Here in Bengaluru, we have our main office in India,” he said. “There are about 60 people working here. There are about five people at the smaller office in Delhi who are in charge of government affairs and corporate social responsibility.”

The Krafton India CEO pointed to the company’s preemptive measures to cope with government regulation to minimize risks.

Thanks to Battlegrounds’ already famous intellectual property worldwide, Krafton’s entrance into the Indian market came in July 2021 with a bang as BGMI became the No. 1 game on the App Store within a year of its launch. It was not, however, all sunshine and rainbows as the Indian government suddenly banned the mobile game in July 2022. The ban was eventually lifted in May 2023.

People line up to get inside the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Mumbai to attend the final rounds of the Battleground Mobile India Series 2023 in October last year. (Krafton)

“Problems could be raised in terms of (our game’s) addictiveness, violence and protecting adolescents,” said Sohn.

“When we were relaunching BGMI, we expanded the (daily) playing time limit of six hours to all ages. We believe that we are the only company that offers gaming services in such a way. Because we are under the spotlight, we took the initiative to take care of the issue.”

After the relaunch, BGMI was estimated to have generated $74 million in revenue between May 2023 and Feb. 2024 according to global app market tracker Sensor Tower’s report. Although Krafton has not released individual earnings of each game, the company logged 402.3 billion won ($292.4 million) in revenue from mobile games in the first quarter of this year, up 15.5 percent on-year.

Regarding the debut of Road to Valor: Empires, a real-time player versus-player strategy game, in India, Sohn said the traffic and revenue figures did not excel but it was a step forward in the direction of publishing games optimized for the Indian market.

“When we were launching (Road to Valor: Empires) in India, the target was not about seeing meaningful results in comparison to BGMI,” he said.

“Rather, it was more about trying different things quickly such as having dates specialized for the Indian market or introducing new modes for esports. Since our publishing team had been mainly about providing services for one game, we wanted to launch various games and have experiences of ‘scale-up’ for team building purposes.”

Sohn estimated that BGMI accounts for roughly 70 to 80 percent of the entire esports sector in India, mentioning that over 200,000 viewers are watching the mobile shooting game’s matches on livestream via YouTube.

“When we speak on the number of gamers in India, we say it’s about 500 million or 600 million,” he said.

“We think that the number of gamers who enjoy playing battle royale games ranges between 80 million and 120 million.”

According to market intelligence Mordor Intelligence, the Indian gaming market is measured at $3.49 this year and is projected to reach $7.24 billion in 2029 with a compound annual growth rate of 15.68 percent during the forecast period. Krafton plans to publish six games in India this year.

The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Mumbai is filled up with audience watching the final rounds of the Battleground Mobile India Series 2023 in October last year. (Krafton)

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)

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