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Poor Asian console sales shouldn't be blamed on piracy - Nexon

CEO "optimistic" of a console game market in Asia - if publishers understand regional demands

The slow performance of home consoles in Asian markets outside of Japan shouldn't be just blamed on piracy, according to Nexon CEO Joonmo Kwon.

Kwon is optimistic that there could be a credible console market in countries such as Korea, provided console manufacturers and publishers take the time to understand the specific demands of the separate regions.

"It's true that the issue of piracy has had adverse effects on the development of the console game market in Asia to a certain extent," offered Kwon in an exclusive interview published today.

"However, as you can see by the consistent growth of the music and movie industries in most Asian territories despite such intellectual property issues, you can't really blame the underdevelopment of the console market solely on piracy."

Kwon detailed the performance of the three home consoles, noting that sales expectations for the Wii were lower than anticipated and that PS3 and Xbox 360 figures only make up a fraction of global sales.

"Microsoft's Xbox 360, which boasts sales of 15 million units worldwide, has only sold 150,000 units in Korea in the past two years," he said.

"Sony's PlayStation 3, which has sold 5.5 million units worldwide, has only sold 50,000 units during the past year in Korea. And the Nintendo Wii, which initially was expected to sell more than 100,000 units in the first month after it was released only sold about 40,000 units for almost two months - and the situation isn't much different in other parts of Asia, except of course for Japan.

"However, despite those numbers, the results aren't all discouraging when you consider that these numbers indicate that there is at least a possibility of a console game market in Asia, where online games traditionally had been completely dominant," he added.

Other encouraging signs are similar to growth areas in the Western market – the increased uptake of handheld consoles and a broadening of the demographic to include female consumers.

"You could even say that the situation is pretty much optimistic in general - the new trend has greatly contributed to the expansion of the game user demographics, capturing wider age ranges, not to mention female groups too," said Kwon.

However, if publishers really want success in Asian markets, Kwon believes they must cater to the local demands, and that means increasing online services in regions that expect such features as standard.

"In almost all parts of Asia, excluding Japan, online games have been leading the market growth since the very early stages of the games industry, which is something that indicates users have a strong preference and attachment for the common characteristics and typical features of online games.

"So for the console game industry to succeed in Asia, unlike in North America or Europe, it's extremely important to set strategies that are specifically suitable for the local market,” said Kwon. “Most Asian gamers are far more used to and attracted by interactive games via network connections, and they've long been enjoying the unique convenience that online games offer - such as being able to download and play a wide variety of games for free with a single account from any PC."

He added: "Games which require specific consoles and extra hardware devices, or are stored in a cartridge or CD/DVD-ROM, are purchasable mostly at offline stores and a new boxed product needs to be purchased for each new game that a person wants to play - all of those things simply make console games less appealing to gamers in Asia."

The full interview with Joonmo Kwon can be read here.

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