The Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Korea Game Industry Agency have just released the latest whitepaper on the Korean game industry – The Rise of Korean Games 2007.

The document contains industry figures for 2006 (a shame to be just getting this now!) and outlines government policy trends and strategies for the industry. It can be downloaded from the Korean Game Industry Total Information Service System website.

An addendum, the volume does appear to be published mid-2007. It has only just been listed on the GITISS website as of 8 September 2008, so perhaps this publishing date refers to the original Korean language version?

Reporting on the size of the digital content industry in Japan, an AP news feed on AOL news indicates that the digital content market size in Japan has grew to 2.694 trillion yen in 2007, just under 3.4 per cent growth.

The figures come as the Digital Content Association of Japan released their Digital Content White Paper 2008, which will interest readers of Japanese, on 1 September.

According to the association’s Press Release (PDF file in Japanese), 2007 saw visual content emerge with a clear margin as the largest contributor to digital content sales, reaching 30 per cent of total sale (540.8 billion yen, an increase of 8.7 per cent). Music was down to 26 per cent of the total, showing a negligible decrease in sales to 596.5 billion yen (12.5 billion yen down from the previons year). Game software also experienced a small decrease to total 767.7 billion yen, while digital publishing sales increased by over 10 per cent to reach 789.7 billion yen.

While most digital content was still predominantly sold as packaged media (66 per cent of total), consumption through mobile phones increased to reach 21.6 per cent of the total, ahead of online sales 11.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, the whole (media) content market size stood at 13.8 trillion yen, an ever so slight increase on 2006 of 0.3 per cent. 5.8 trillion of this was in publishing, 4.84 trillion in visual content, 1.86 trillion in music and 1.29 trillion in games. With regards to distribution medium, 48.6 per cent were packaged goods, 29.2 per cent via broadcasting, 12.8  per cent through location-based distribution (cinemas, game arcades, concerts), 5 per cent online, and 4.3 per cent via mobile.

Not surprisingly, packaged media has been steadily decreasing over the past 5 years as online and mobile sales continue to grow.

Changes to media ownership laws have been proposed by the Korea Communications Commission according to a Variety article on 3 September.

Korean President Lee Myung-bak has followed this up with a statement that indicates the government’s desire to have a globally competitive media player with the scale to make an impact in international markets.

The government should create an environment to enable the advent of a world-class media firm with global competitiveness by drastically loosening the string of regulations on the broadcasting and communications sector.

From the KCC report, the government’s strategy to achieve this appears to be not through lifting foreign investment limits but by loosening cross-media ownership laws.

The stringent regulations on ownership and multiple ownership prohibit the broadcasting sector from expanding through new investments and mergers and acquisitions”

New media environments have challenged the legitimacy of incumbent cross-media ownership laws, but one does have to wonder if the way to a more globally competitive media conglomerate would not be best achieved by relaxing foreign investment restrictions, no matter how unpalatable that may be.

In other words, despite ideological resistance in Korea to opening up the media industry to foreign players, this may provide an avenue of providing greater diversity in the Korean media while not restricting plurality and freedom of speech. This is particularly the case in Korea where censorship law are stricter than in many other democracies, and a further concentration of power in the media – and big business groups in general – is precisely what successive administrations have been fighting to reform.

The Japan International Contents Festival gets underway at the end of this month running from 30 September through 28 October.

While more than 10 days shorter than last year’s ‘festa’, CoFesta 2008 still brings together individual markets and festivals across games, animation, characters, broadcast, film, and music content.

Check out the English version of CoFesta’s website.

Just some facts in this post – and apologies for the delay.

According to figures released in April by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australian-based game developers received $A116.9 million in revenue over the 2006/07 financial year.

The ABS data indicated that as of June 2007 there were 1,431 employees in the local industry, which indicates considerable growth from 9 months earlier in September 2006 when employees stood at 1,024.

Confirming the status of the industry as a service exporter, ABS figures showed that 92 per cent of developers’ revenue came from non-resident clients over the 2006-07 financial year.

In contrast, sales of game hardware and software in Australia reached A$1.32 billion in 2007, surpassing box office revenue, with software sales accounting for approximately A$750 million of this.

Outsourcing and downsizing is a common theme in media as it is in most industries. But the announcement from Fairfax in Australia that it will be cutting 550 jobs raises the familiar question of whether the quality of news can remain the same with fewer journalists (see article in The Australian Fairfax sheds 550 jobs and quality journalism).

The clear response to the announcement has been concern that editorials, and in particular investigatory journalism will suffer, reducing the “fourth estate’s” ability to act as society’s monitor and watchdog over business and government.

The move towards outsourcing news stories – particularly foreign news – to news agencies and wire services such as AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg has been a trend for a long time. How often have you scanned several news sources only to find the same news verbatim?

Ironically, in the past, newspapers’s adoption of new information technologies was used to rationalise the posting of reporters around the world, as they could report back instantly (don’t take my word on this). These communications technologies however have resulted in a far more centralised production process where a few companies distribute reports to newspapers around the world.

Evidently, outsourcing of articles to syndicated news agencies can result in a reduced variety of available ‘news’ products. But a few things worth noting are:

  • We also have access to a far greater range on news sources online that we have in the past
  • The volume of news has increased phenomenally – newspapers maybe be using more syndicated news, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are cutting their core offerings.
  • Web 2.0, which we are all spending more time using, clearly appears to be challenging some news companies, just as they had embraced the internet as it was. Fairfax did particularly badly with its entry into online services.
  • The Fairfax cut equates to about 5 per cent of total full-time staff. But notable (in my opinion) is that its flagship product the Australian Financial Review is to remain unaffected. These journalists write well and know their stuff.

With a touch of nostalgia I read the Wireless Watch Japan entry on mobile internet in Japan. The WWJ piece was critiquing an article in TechCrunch by on the success of mobile internet in Japan, particularly NTT Docomo’s i-mode.

The WWJ editors (rightly) point out that the success of mobile internet in Japan was mostly down to technological and business model innovation rather than cultural specificity in the Japanese market.

The WWJ editors are very dismissive of the Japan-specific story, and understandably so. This line has been carried by most analysts in the West and was long used as a reason why i-mode would never work outside of Japan. Regarding i-mode’s success,  they are spot on in identifying the importance of the relationships between handset manufacturer, operator, and content provider.

plus8star gives a good list of Japan firsts that help debunk the “only in Japan” approach used to dismiss much Japanese innovation:

  • Mobile email -1999
  • Camera phones and TFT colour screens – 2000
  • Commercial 3G  -2001
  • QR code reader – 2002
  • A big market for ringtones and song downloads (over 160 billion yen in 2005 according to Digital Content Association of Japan)

In a slightly more academic look at the success, this book chapter, Out of the Japanese Incubator (free download from ANU EPress) suggests a generalised 6 point model to the success of the platform.

  1. Collaborative business network between operators and manufacturers.
  2. Content aggregation.
  3. Micropayment mechanism.
  4. Independent content providers.
  5. Freedom of access outside aggregated content.
  6. Increased connectivity that results from these factors.

The book chapter also argues that rather than cultural specificity, the biggest barriers to exporting the i-mode model are likely to be 1) lack of the collaborative relationship between handset manufacturer and operator, 2) tendency for operators to enter exclusive arrangements with major content providers, and 3) the popularity of prepaid mobile phones outside of Japan.

So while western journalists and analysts got most fired up (and dismissive) about Japanese mobile telephony around 2001, Japan is still a resounding hotbed of innovation that – often years later – gets picked up in other markets. Leaving Tokyo again in 2007, I suffered major withdrawal symptoms after giving up the RFID contactless stored value card built into my phone. I didn’t know how I would be getting on trains or making payments at convenience stores.

But then again, I was coming to Canberra. I wouldn’t be using trains. Or convenience stores.

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