A fertile market and a fertile territory for e-commerce — online games and South Korea — met up Monday when EA.com, the online gaming division of entertainment software maker Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS), announced plans to launch a localized version of its popular Ultima Online role-playing game in the Far Eastern country.
Other games and sporting sites will follow, the Redwood City,California-based company said.
“We see a huge long-term opportunity to bring compelling online content tothe booming Korean game market,” said John Riccitiello, Electronic Artspresident and chief operating officer and general manager of EA.com.
According to EA, South Korea has about 22 million Internet users who spend anaverage of 16 hours per month online. Gaming is one of the top activitiesfor Korean Web users, the company said.
“Internet gaming rooms are one of the most popular forms of entertainment inKorea, outpacing all other mediums, including television and movies,”Riccitiello said.
South Korea is home to about 25,000 Internet gaming rooms, which charge consumersby the hour, EA said.
Korean E-Commerce Booming
Statistics bear out EA’s view that the South Korean market is ripe for investment.A May report from research firm YankeeGroup found that the country is poised for a consumer e-commerce boom.
More than a third of South Koreans surveyed by Yankee said they were making onlinepurchases regularly, with 65 percent of those buyers in the heavy-spending16- to 25-year-old age group.
A rebounding economy, growing Internet infrastructure and improved security will help ensure that South Korean e-commerce is strong in coming years, Yankee said.
At the same time, the Yankee report found, few foreign companies have so farmoved to exploit the South Korean market.
Growth in Games
EA.com, launched in the United States in October, provides programming for America Online’sAOL Games channel and other properties, as well as over its own site.
The EA.com site, which boasts 22 million registered members and a 37 percent share ofthe market for online interactive games, offers both free and subscription-based games.
The Ultima Online fantasy game has about 235,000 subscribers, according to EA.
Electronic Arts, which also makes games for Nintendo consoles and personalcomputers, last month reported an 18 percent year-over-year rise in revenuefor the first quarter ended June 30th. The company lost 33 cents per sharein the quarter, the same as a year earlier. The EA.com division saw a widerloss, although revenue rose 87 percent.