Android is big in Asia: games return to South Korea

by Kristen Nicole

In a land where smartphone adoption rates are among the highest in the world, South Korea has become one of the most targeted areas for mobile development. Now that restrictions on game approval have been loosened, South Korea can join in the Android gaming fun. As The Wall Street Journal points out, approximately 40 percent of the South Korean population has purchased smartphones in just two years, jumping on a fresh opportunity after mobile software regulations were lessened. And some 20 million South Koreans are now primed for the mobile gaming industry’s more adept innovations.

Google resumed selling games on its South Korean Android Market yesterday, in response to the local government changing the law exempting mobile games from the app store. After Google reversed a self-imposed sales block from April 2010, any publisher can launch a game on the Android Market as long as they accept restrictions on gambling- and sexually-themed products. Android has a 75 percent market share for devices in South Korea, and the gaming industry has become particularly lucrative on the mobile platform. New methods of advertising, micropayments and virtual goods have spread across the industry like wildfire, and established Asian markets are great places to rapidly evolve.

Japan gets early game releases

But South Korea isn’t the only Asian region that’s earned the affections of Android’s mobile gaming industry. Japan is a ready market too. SEGA has been revving-up its Android efforts with back-to-back game releases earlier this month, and plans for an Android launch of Sonic the Hedgehog in December. In fact, if you buy the pre-loaded Android tablet from GameStop, you’ll gain early access. But a new title, Sonic Advance (popular from the GameBoy Advance era), has popped up in the Japanese Android Market. The fast-paced platformer is similar to the original: collect rings, avoid enemies, spring through stage exits and call in your friends for reinforcement.

Given the surging appeal of Japan’s mobile market, where Google has outgrown Apple, game makers find a ripe user base. Sony has been targeting Japan for some time, with an early launch of the PlayStation Vita there. Square Enix has also shared its plans for a big push into the Android Market, making its games available first to Japanese users. The company behind Final Fantasy and Crystal Defenders, is demonstrating that anticipation for Android versions is growing worldwide. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light should be the first to appear outside of Asia as a temporary exclusive for another Sony product, the Xperia PLAY.