Are you a comic book lover? Then Check this out, Webtoon (on-line comic book), a unique Korean culture gaining quite an amount of fans worldwide.
The prevalence of smartphones and changes in media consumption patterns have driven many entertainment media formats to become mobile-friendly. In 2018, 82% of South Koreans owned a smartphone and Korea is considered to be one of the best-connected countries in the world. So it’s not surprising that new forms of smartphone-friendly media are originating and being developed in South Korea. One notable area includes webtoons and webtoon-based games.
Rise of Webtoons
Webtoon origins can be traced back to Korean comic books (called manhwa in Korean). What sets webtoons apart from manhwa books is their vertical scrolling format (click here if you are curious about what vertical scrolling is) that makes them easy to read on a smartphone. Being accessible to users on the go is the key to remaining competitive in the current media environment. Visual stories already have the advantage of keeping reader attention and, as a result, webtoons have proven to be very successful.
Since webtoons are episodic, another major difference between old-school Korean comic books and webtoons is the evolution of communication styles between the creators and the readers; creators receive instant feedback in the comments section and communicate with fans as they develop their work.
The success of webtoons does not end here; the converging media forms are full of potential. Korea is not only a pioneer in online visual storytelling but also a power player in the global mobile-game market. Recently, more and more webtoons are being adapted as games.
|Naver Webtoon's homepage, offers you fancy cartoons ⓒ NAVER WEBTOONS CORP.|
How 'Naver Webtoon' Became Global
Webtoons have found popularity on a global scale thanks to a number of platforms that translate and distribute them outside of South Korea. Naver Webtoon has played a leading role in bringing webtoons to global audiences and has become the most popular platform.
Naver Webtoon has more than 60 million active monthly users globally. As the popularity of the industry continues to rise, their revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 2019 amounted to 128% year-on-year.
Naver Webtoon’s success relies on many factors; apart from the quality and accessibility of its contents, a successful ‘IP business’ plan has been a major contributor. In South Korea, the term IP business is commonly used to refer to business models that make use of well-known intellectual property and promote their integration in different formats. Naver Webtoon has been successfully driving new businesses from their current IPs, for example through television, movies, animation remakes, and games.
Throughout the past decade, many of the Naver Webtoon IPs have been adapted into successful dramas.
|'Burning Hell' (2014) available on Naver series from 2019 ⓒYLAB|
|Famous Nexflix original series 'Kingdom' is based on the webtoon 'Burning Hell' ⓒNetflix|
Furthermore, Naver has begun to create webtoon-based animations that will be released in Korea, the US, and Japan in 2020. This move opens new opportunities and paths for the Korean content industry in general and the comics industry in particular.
In addition, Naver Webtoon and Gyeonggi-do are cooperating to support the development of new webtoon based games.
Gyeonggi-do Webtoon Game Business
Games and webtoons are two important content types that receive support from the Gyeonggi Content Agency because of their potential in the global market. The agency offers help to small and medium-sized game companies in the form of financial aid, marketing/ advertising, consulting, and more.
Using preexisting and popular IPs to develop games are among the core strategies put forth by the Gyeonggi Content Agency. In 2018, the province created Webtoon-based Game Production Support in with cooperation of Naver Webtoon. At the time, 10 small and medium-sized game companies were selected to develop games based on popular Korean webtoon titles; the project’s aim was to provide aid the selected companies and ensure their access to services essential for targeting the global market. Some of the services provided include QA, marketing, game operations, and localization support.
2019 Gyeonggi-do Global Game Production Support
In 2019, Gyeonggi-do continued to support the production of games with the potential to enter the global market; the program covered webtoon-based games, AR/VR, and HTML5. The support program for webtoon-based games selected four of Gyeonggi-do’s game companies; the program provided funds to help with general production costs as well as the payments needed to use Naver Webtoon’s intellectual property.
2019 Global Game Support included a showcase held in March 2019 in Pangyo. During the showcase, experts in the field examined the current game market, successful strategies, and conducted case studies. The God of High School, developed by SN games and based on a popular Naver Webtoon, was one of the cases discussed by multiple parties. The success of the game in 2016 launched the webtoon-based game business into a new golden era.
New version of 'The God of High School' is being developed under NU soft to be playable within 2020.
2020 Global Game Production Support has expanded related partnerships to include CJ ENM and Google in addition to Naver Webtoon.