Kakao’s Backing Boosts Korean Gaming Entrepreneur To Billionaire Ranks

Okayim Jae-young, the founding father of South Korean on-line recreation developer Lionheart Studio, is now a billionaire after a $925 million funding from native web big Kakao, turning into the third gaming entrepreneur within the video game-obsessed nation since final 12 months to hit billionaire standing.

Kakao Video games Europe, the European subsidiary of Kakao’s gaming arm Kakao Video games, purchased a 30.37% stake in Lionheart for 1.2 trillion received ($925 million) on the finish of June, valuing the corporate at about $3 billion. Many of the stake was purchased from Kim, who now owns 34.67% of Lionheart. Kim, who’s CEO and chairman of Lionheart, additionally owns a 2.87% stake in Kakao Video games, whose income reached document ranges due to Lionheart’s hit on-line recreation Odin: Valhalla Rising. Mixed, Forbes estimates his web value at $1.7 billion.

Developed by Lionheart and printed by Kakao Video games, Odin was launched in South Korea in June final 12 months and topped the nation’s app retailer rankings. Kakao Video games launched Odin in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan in March, and the corporate is making ready to launch the sport in Japan within the second half of this 12 months. Odin has been downloaded over 1 million instances on Google’s Play Retailer, together with 10,000 final month alone, in line with app analysis agency Sensor Tower.

When Odin was launched, the sport boosted Kakao Video games’ cell gaming income to a document excessive of 410.5 billion received ($315 million) within the third quarter final 12 months, up 359% from the identical interval final 12 months. Lionheart, which makes all of its cash from Odin, reported 2021 revenues of 232.6 billion received ($180 million) and a lack of 150.7 billion received, up from a lack of 25.4 billion received the earlier 12 months.

Based mostly in Seongnam, south of Seoul, Lionheart is making ready for an preliminary public providing, says an organization spokesperson. Native newspaper Maeil Enterprise Newspaper reported that Lionheart might be valued as excessive as 8 trillion received ($6 billion), citing analyst estimates. Lionheart’s IPO could be the biggest by a South Korean recreation firm since that of billionaire Chang Byung-gyu’s Krafton, which raised $3.8 billion in August final 12 months on the Korea Trade.

Kim based Lionheart in 2018 primarily with investments from Kakao Video games and recreation developer Wemade, a pioneer of blockchain-based video games in South Korea. Kakao Video games has step by step elevated its stake in Lionheart over time, and now owns 24.57% of the corporate. Along with its European arm, Kakao Video games, which is a part of billionaire Kim Beom-su’s web conglomerate Kakao, owns a majority of Lionheart. The opposite main shareholder is Wemade, which holds a 4.23% stake after promoting virtually half of its Lionheart stake to Kakao Video games.

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“With the acquisition of a majority stake in Lionheart Studio, the developer of hit title Odin, Kakao Video games is to bolster its improvement capabilities and safe vital earnings development,” NH Funding & Securities analyst Jaemin Ahn stated in a analysis observe. “The acquisition ought to function a possibility for Kakao Video games to focus on the worldwide market in earnest.”

Earlier than Lionheart, Kim beforehand cofounded one other on-line recreation firm, Motion Sq., in 2012, which went public on the Korea Trade through a particular function acquisition firm in 2015. Beforehand, Kim, who holds a grasp’s diploma in mechanical engineering from Seoul’s Hanyang College, labored at Japanese online game maker Koei (now a part of billionaire couple Yoichi and Keiko Erikawa’s Koei Tecmo) and Neowiz, one of many earliest on-line recreation firms in South Korea, cofounded by Krafton’s Chang.

Final 12 months, Chang and Wemade founder Park Kwan-ho additionally turned billionaires in their very own proper. The opposite South Korean gaming entrepreneurs within the three-comma membership are NCSoft’s Kim Taek-jin, Netmarble’s Bang Jun-hyuk, NHN Leisure’s Lee Joon-ho, Pearl Abyss’ Kim Dae-il and Smilegate’s Kwon Hyuk-bin.

Kim Jung-ju, founding father of Nexon, which pioneered the free-to-play mannequin the place customers play video games totally free however pay for digital objects and equipment, was the wealthiest South Korean gaming entrepreneur till his sudden dying in February on the age of 54. His spouse, Yoo Jung-hyun, who helped begin Nexon in 1994, made her debut on the Korea’s 50 Richest record this 12 months with a web value of $3 billion.

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