When our Saturday-evening plans fell through at the last minute, I found myself with a new Korean experience - nothing to do. So it was suggested that I try out the Korean phenomena that is Kartrider, a free on-line Mario-Kart style game which is earning serious revenue for its creator Nexon.
Western games companies might wonder how a business model can be built on such a concept, but the answer as so often with Korean companies lies in Korean peoples' willingness to live out alternative lives on line, whether it be through Korean homepages such as Cyworld, or entire game-worlds. When so much time is spent in an environment, and indeed social networking of a sort done within them, the opportunity to use it to sell clothing, equipment and a variety of other add-ons present themselves. For Nexon alone, revenue is into the hundreds of millions of dollars and such is the seriousness with which Kartrider alone is played in here, for some players it can actually become a job.
A few hours after starting, I'd won a few races at the bottom level with my basic kart, and had the sore fingers to prove it. Beating my girlfriend's friend though, a high-ranking player with a year's experience, proved predictably elusive. Despite this, I wasn't immediately tempted to splash out real money buying a faster kart in order to compete more effectively. Perhaps I'll just work my way up the hard way.
Despite not being much of a video-games player, the quick games against real people proved strangely addictive and on a slow trading day yesterday evening I left my systems to trade automatically and went back into the Kartrider world to try and improve my score - but beating my Korean friends still proved impossible.
Given that my girlfriend's friends don't speak very much English, and myself even less Korean, we are therefore limited to communicating instead via a video game, although when you think about it, it is perhaps a very Korean way to build relationships.