The Korea Herald

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SM, Hybe’s investment in game business still questioned

By Kim Jae-heun

Published : May 21, 2024 - 17:06

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An upcoming mobile game An upcoming mobile game "BTS Cooking On: TinyTAN Restaurant" (Com2us)

Hybe and SM Entertainment have revealed their plans to launch new game content using K-pop bands’ intellectual property (IP) this year, but questions are still being raised over the games' chances of success.

SM Entertainment said last month it is developing a mobile phone game tentatively titled “SM Game Station” in collaboration with Kakao Games, which will be available to the public in the second half of this year. A local game developer Com2us is also set to release a new phone game “BTS Cooking On: TinyTAN Restaurant” in June.

However, expectations are still low from industry insiders and game users, who are mostly K-pop fans.

“I feel like entertainment companies and game developers are only focused on making money by using fans. I played the game ‘BTS World’ before and its story was lame, not to mention the game was boring to play,” a 34-year-old BTS fan Kim Ji-man said Tuesday.

Lee Jong-im, a professor of the Department of Digital & Cultural Policy at Seoul National University of Science & Technology, also pointed out that entertainment companies and game developers need to improve their trite game content.

A mobile puzzle game A mobile puzzle game "BTS Island: In The SEOM" (Hybe)

“Concepts of the games made with K-pop bands’ IP are mostly banal. Entertainment companies are investing in the games to diversify their business portfolios which are heavily weighted in the stagnated music sector, but they are not considering the players’ needs. SM Entertainment’s new game, for example, 'hires' users to play the virtual role of a K-pop band manager and they get digital photo cards as a reward. Why do it in the fake world, if we can engage in similar fan activities in real life?” Lee said Tuesday.

Han Ji-hoon, a senior vice president of Com2us, said during the press showcase in January that the company will make the new BTS game that Army (BTS fans) can “actually” enjoy playing and not just use the K-pop band’s IP as a hook to attract users.

Profitability is another problem. A mobile puzzle game “BTS Island: In The SEOM” ambitiously created by Hybe’s game subsidiary Hybe IM in 2022 is still showing poor business performance due to falling user numbers.

The company posted revenue of 30.89 billion won in 2023, down 14.9 percent, year-on-year. It also marked 19.7 billion won in operating loss over the same period.