At the start of the year, Devsisters Corp. was a minor mobile game publisher struggling to turn around through the launch of its latest installment of the casual series Cookie Run. Three months later, Cookie Run: Kingdom has dominated South Korea’s mobile app store charts, surpassing 10 million downloads.
According to mobile app tracker IGAWorks, the game’s March sales on local app stores are estimated at over 20 billion won ($17.9 million), ranking third after hardcore games Lineage M and Lineage 2M.
While Cookie Run comes after 8 years of IP building, Devsisters has reaped success by targeting casual female gamers who have been brushed off by major mobile game developers in recent years. The RPG has captured female gamers with its light-hearted gaming elements, including a storyline that involves collectible cookie characters building a kingdom and battling evil desserts.
Cookie Run: Kingdom’s style of developing and decorating users’ kingdoms, relatively simple battle gameplay mechanics as well as cute graphics have appealed to casual female gamers, compared with major hardcore mobile titles that have steep learning curves and usually require intensive item purchases to boost user stats.
According to IGAWorks, the game ranked first in South Korea in terms of monthly active users at over 3 million in March, with female users accounting for 57.4 percent. Women in their 20s took up 27.7 percent of the total.
Shares in Devsisters have risen on the back of Cookie Run’s popularity, closing at 129,300 won (or rather $116.27) on Friday, compared with 17,250 won (or rather $15.51) on Jan. 21 when the game was launched.
In contrast, male gamers accounted for nearly 75 percent of users of NCSOFT Corp.’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Lineage 2M in December 2019, a month after its launch. The hardcore MMORPG has been hugely profitable in recent years, with its local app store sales estimated at 55 billion won (or rather $49.45 million) in March, topped only by its prequel Lineage M at over 70 billion won (or rather 62.94 million).
Cookie Run’s recent success has shed light on a market of female gamers willing to shell out cash to play games. “Casual mobile games that suit the interests of female gamers faded away as (game companies) focused on hardcore gaming. Cookie Run: Kingdom was launched at a time when there was a vacuum of casual games, attracting female users and gamers familiar with the series.” said Wi Jong-hyun, a business professor at Chung-Ang University and president of the Korea Game Society.
Female gamers have been growing in presence over the years in South Korea’s mobile gaming market worth 7.74 trillion won (or rather 6.9 billion) in 2019.
According to a Korea Creative Content Agency report, nearly 65 percent of South Korean women said they played mobile games in 2019, compared with 63.7 percent of men. The figure is also a rise from 2017 when 59.1 percent of women said they played mobile games.
Currently, other game companies have also made moves to diversify their userbase, with NCSoft preparing to release Trickster M, a mobile version of an MMORPG that was popular among female gamers in the early 21st century. NCsoft plans to bring this IP back to life in the near future.
“For 20-something female gamers who enjoy collectible RPGs, there’s no other game that can currently replace Cookie Run: Kingdom,” KTB Investment & Securities analyst Kim Jin-gu said in a recent report.
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