South Korea is one of the largest video games markets in the world and has a strong gaming culture. Almost three quarters of the population enjoy playing video games socially or competitively. But what makes South Korea such a gaming powerhouse?
This blog reveals the latest video game statistics and demographics in South Korea as well as gaming trends to watch now and in future.
Read more: Global Video Game Industry: Statistics, Demographics, Trends
Video game industry statistics in South Korea
So, how popular is gaming in South Korea? Let’s look at the statistics to understand why the country has become a leading player on the global stage and what is driving video game industry growth in South Korea.
- South Koreans love technology and enjoy one of the fastest internet networks in the world with high-speed internet widely available1. This has driven the rapid expansion of online gaming and esports in South Korea.
- The country is the fourth largest games market globally in terms of revenue. Over the last decade, video game industry revenue in South Korea has more than doubled2– from 9.75 trillion Korean won in 2012 to an estimated 21.83 trillion Korean won in 2022.
- Gamer penetration is high in South Korea – 71% of the population played video games in 20213. This means that the number of gamers in South Korea is over 35 million.
- The country is a mobile-first gaming market: 53% mobile games, 37% PC games and 19% console games4. (There is an overlap across devices because some people play on more than one device.)
Video game industry demographics in South Korea
For further insights we need to look at South Korean video games demographics to understand what is driving market growth.
Research from Mintegral dispels the myth that most gamers are male teenagers. In fact, the average mobile gamer in South Korea is adult (typically in the 21-35-year-old age bracket), often with children5
. Here are some key insights into the age/gender split:
Male gamers in South Korea
- 57% of mobile gamers are male
- 13% are 10-20 years old
- 20% are 21-35 years old
- 18% are 35-50 years old
- 5% are 51-65 years old
Female gamers in South Korea
- 43% of mobile gamers are female
- 9% are 10-20 years old
- 17% are 21-35 years old
- 12% are 35-50 years old
- 6% are 51-65 years old
Age breakdown of all gamers
- 22% are 10-20 years old
- 37% are 21-35 years old
- 30% are 35-50 years old
- 11% are 51-65 years old
Playing video games has become a mainstream social activity in South Korea over the last 20 years. As today’s gamers continue to play as they get older, it is likely that video gaming will become an increasingly popular pastime with senior citizens.
Video game industry trends in South Korea
Here are five trends that are shaping the future direction of gaming in South Korea:
Grassroots esports initiatives
Widely acknowledged as the birthplace of esports, South Korea was one of the first countries to recognize esports as a legitimate sport and career choice.
It has a grassroots ecosystem that enables more young people to follow their dreams to become professional gamers.
As well as government-led initiatives including an official high school textbook for attracting students to esports, there is a Korea Scholastic Esports Federation6
– affiliated to the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) – established to help esports grow and thrive at high schools in South Korea.
There are also numerous grassroots esports leagues and local tournaments across the country. Education is highly regarded in South Korean culture and many youth gamers apply the same level of dedication to gaming as they do to their studies. This highly driven, highly competitive approach has produced some of the top-ranked players in the world.
Ban on play-to-earn games
In December 2021, the South Korean government banned new play-to-earn games and requested that existing ones be removed7
from Google Play and the iOS App Store.
Even before this move by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, South Korean games companies were battling to get their play-to-earn games on domestic app stores. The two main obstacles they faced were gaming prizes over 10,000 Korean won (US$8) are prohibited in South Korea and some play-to-earn games could not get an age rating required for listing on app stores.
The ban on this type of game will hamper growth in one of the gaming industry’s most lucrative markets.
Popularity of PC bangs
Even though there is widespread access to high-speed internet across the country, many gamers prefer to use PC bangs (PC rooms). These dedicated venues, which developed from internet cafés, are unique to South Korea.
Frequented by both casual and competitive gamers, they provide a social space for players to join in multiplayer games on high-end computers for an hourly fee. There are estimated to be around 20,000 PC bangs in the country and their popularity shows no signs of waning8
After a dip in sales revenue in 2020 and 2021, due to Covid-19 restrictions, sales revenue is predicted to grow to 2347.8 billion Korean won in 2023 (up from 2,144.1 billion in 2022).
Cinemas rent out screens to gamers
The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the global cinema industry as theaters were forced to close.
However, CGV – the largest multiplex chain in South Korea – has come up with an innovative way to recoup lost revenue. It hires out cinema screens to gamers from 100,000 Korean won (around US$75) for two hours9
Gamers bring their own games, consoles and controllers. Many video games are immersive experiences, similar to movies, and benefit from the high-quality images and sound that cinemas can provide. It will be interesting to see whether other cinema chains in South Korea and beyond adopt this idea.
Virtual reality and the metaverse
Many video games companies in South Korea are embracing virtual reality (VR) technology.
The country’s VR gaming market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.38% from 2022-202710
. The strong gaming culture and demand for increasingly immersive and interactive experiences are fueling this growth.
Most gaming malls and arcades now have VR games and accessories (VR headsets, hand controllers and sensor-equipped gloves) available to try. The widely anticipated arrival of the metaverse is also driving investment in this type of gaming technology. Read more: Into the metaverse: how it will transform our world.
Internet addiction: a public health crisis
According to a 2018 government survey, nearly 20% of the population — around 10 million South Koreans — are at serious risk of internet addiction11.
In response to this public health crisis, the government is financing a number of specialist services – from screening tests and school counseling programs to residential addiction camps for those displaying the most severe symptoms. These two to four-week camps shift the the focus from digital technology onto off-screen hobbies and interests.
However, there are still millions of youth struggling with problematic behavior in South Korea. To treat the growing number of gamers seeking support, clinicians and community outreach workers need access to specialist training and resources.
Specialist mental health resources for clinicians
INTENTA equips mental health professionals with the skills and tools to help at-risk players and their families find a healthier relationship with gaming. Our specialist training has been designed by world-leading experts in gaming disorder prevention, treatment and recovery.
Unlike many national programs, it draws on emerging worldwide trends, latest international research and globally effective intervention skills. Discover evidence-based strategies and gain cultural competency to break down barriers and help your clients regain control of their gaming habits.
Find out more about our internationally-accredited Gaming Disorder Clinical Training