Nexon CEO Owen Mahoney recently gave one whooper of an interview to GamesIndustry.biz arguing that the games industry is reaching a “major transition point” for a “new generation of major entertainment companies.” To prove his point, he invokes no less than the Mouse House and the impact of COVID.
“Think about it: On January 1, who was the king of all media? It was clearly Disney. And Disney’s business across the board has just been decimated by this transition to virtual that is required by COVID. And so we think that going forward, there’s going to be a new class of winners. And we think that Nexon will be one of them if we play our cards right, if we execute well. […] So with that as a backdrop, we think the question for us is, ‘Who wins in this new world?’ We want to invest in those companies. So the board authorized us to spend up to $1.5 billion of our roughly $5 billion in cash, to put into the companies that we think are going to win in this. We’ve spent about half of it so far since the announcement. We haven’t announced who the companies are, but we think it’s a good use of our cash.”
It’s big talk for a company that failed at selling itself last year and wound up shuttering studios and games in the ensuing stock dip, but the interview pushes onward into discussing what games will look like post-COVID, generation gaps for players, the future of virtual worlds, and Nexon’s insistence that it’s not pulling out of the West.
“We just want to do online games in virtual worlds: deeply online, immersive, online games and virtual worlds,” he said. “But in order to pull that off really well, we’ve got to focus on a few things. And we’ve got to focus on the best ideas, and we have to not do other stuff. So for example, last year, we shut down our Emeryville office that’s in Northern California, and we consolidated that with our publishing group in LA. Why did we do that? Well, mobile used to be a very separate business. What was required to publish on mobile, especially in the world of casual games, was a very separate business and what made you good at that was different than what made you good at PC. Today, a mobile device is essentially a PC in terms of GPU. So publishing becomes very, very similar in those two worlds. So we consolidate that.”
Nexon has reason to be positive, in spite of its messy last year or two, as the games and studios it didn’t cancel and sunset drove revenues of ¥64.5 billion ($605 million US), up 20% year over year and largely a result of the success of KartRider Rush+, MapleStory, and Dungeon & Fighter in Korea. MapleStory revenue in the west grew significantly as well.