KOTRA Express talks to Suzie Kim, Korea Country Manager Unity Technologies Korea,
to hear more about Korea’s gaming industry and her experience doing business here.
Unity Technologies is the creator of the world’s most widely used real-time 3D development platform with millions of users, giving developers around the world the tools to create rich, interactive 2D, 3D, VR and AR experiences. The company’s 1000-person development team keeps Unity at the forefront of the world’s latest technology by working alongside partners such as Google, Facebook, Oculus and Microsoft to ensure optimized support for the latest releases and platforms. Games and experiences made with Unity have reached approximately 3 billion devices worldwide and were installed more than 28 billion times in the last 12 months. Unity’s renowned flexibility gives developers the power to target and optimize their creations for 25+ platforms including Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Gameroom (Facebook), SteamVR (PC & Mac), Oculus, PSVR, Gear VR, HoloLens, ARKit (Apple), ARCore (Google) and more. Unity also offers solutions and services for connecting with audiences including Unity Ads, Unity Analytics, Unity Asset Store, Unity Cloud Build, Unity Collaborate, Unity Connect and Unity Certification.
Suzie Kim, country manager for Unity Technologies Korea, has extensive experience working in various companies in the gaming industry, including EA Korea. She joined Unity Korea in 2015 as CEO and has since been spearheading the company’s business activities such as Unity engine development, service expansion, and technology support in Korea.
KOTRA Express sat down with Suzie Kim, to hear more about Korea’s gaming industry and her experience doing business here.
Please tell us about Unity Technologies Korea and its history.
Unity Korea was established eight years ago in 2011 as the Korean branch of Unity Technologies. When I joined around 2015, we actually focused on game development, however, two years ago, we shifted our focus toward diverse fields such as media and entertainment, which covers animation, movies, broadcasting, and etc. We are also working in the automotive, transportation and manufacturing (ATM), as well as the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries. The Korea team now covers all of these industries, and we recently relocated to a new office, as the number of our employees has grown to about 60.
Our main missions consist of the “democratization of development, solving hard problems, and enabling success,” and we also hold an annual developer conference called Unite Seoul. We also host events for developers to enable them to share all kinds of information about Unity.
What made Unity establish a branch in Korea? What are the advantages of doing business here?
Well, even before the Korea office was set up, Unity was a well-known engine tool among game developers in Korea. One of the main reasons for establishing the Korea office was because the engine’s wide popularity here required the company to handle the users directly.
In general terms, the size of the Korean market was growing rapidly, becoming as big as the gaming markets in the U.S. and China, so we definitely took this into consideration as well when establishing Unity Korea.
How is Korea’s gaming industry different from that in other parts of the world?
When we expanded to Korea, we wanted to not only deliver products, but also handle the local requests which were flooding in—certain questions and requests were very unique to Korea, covering topics related to new features, new technology and new platforms.
Not only is Korea a large market, but it’s also a strategic one for us because the country is always at the forefront of technology and software. It’s also one of the top five markets for game development in terms of size and is known around the world for its masterpiece games. Unity Korea has support from our headquarters which is also invested in supporting this region and ensuring that the user and developer community is optimized for Korea’s IT trends and player habits. As part of these efforts, we opened a third “Spotlight Team” in Korea in 2017 to provide support for developers, following Unity HQ in San Francisco in the U.S. and our England branch. This shows the importance we place on the Korean market based on its status in the gaming industry as a whole.
What were some marketing/product development strategies that Unity carried out to target Korean customers?
One of our mottos in our office is “Global product, local act.” This means that we try to deliver synchronized global products to the local market, and at the same time, help our customers effectively adopt and use the products. We don’t just take in a global product right away, but we are actively engaged in the product development aspect—we gather customer feedback through our R&D team so that we can develop specific features for them according to their needs and demands.
Although Unity first started as an engine for game development, many industries started showing interest in us as the quality of graphics and performance gradually improved and as features to enhance convenience were added. We also collaborated with leading companies in such industries to add functions that enable them to utilize Unity in practice. As a result, the engine has become a versatile tool that can be used in almost any industry where graphic visualization is needed. Apart from the gaming industry, utilization is increasing particularly in media and entertainment, VR/AR, architecture, engineering and construction, interior design, and automotive design. The process of using Unity in such industries is essentially the same as game development in terms of handling visual effects.
Were there any challenges your firm faced while doing business in Korea?
Even though Korea’s gaming industry is well established and growing at a rapid pace, the pace of new software adoption in the other industries we are trying to expand to is not as fast. To overcome the relatively slower adoption rate in different sectors, we’re looking for ways to improve the functionality of the Unity engine itself and also trying to help industry professionals easily apply Unity to their work through partnerships with leading companies in the AEC field, such as Autodesk.
How can Korea become a more ideal business environment for foreign companies like Unity Technologies?
The Korean gaming market acts as a testing ground for the global gaming market. Korean consumers are picky and therefore, developers work to meet the sophisticated tastes of the local user base in the contents itself, but also the service and infrastructure. As tough and competitive this market is, if something is done well in Korea and can succeed here, I think it can achieve global success as well. In that sense, I think if other foreign companies can approach Korea in this way and utilize Korea as a great test-bed market, they will have great potential to expand in this region and beyond to the world.
What Korean companies/government agencies do you work with to strengthen your business partnerships?
We cooperate with so many different partners—from small indie game companies to large developers—to support game development.
Like I mentioned, as Unity is now being applied to produce various content that goes beyond gaming such as media & entertainment, AEC, VR/AR, and cars, we are expanding cooperation with domestic companies in each of these industries to help them develop their content with our tool. We recently signed an MOU with ROI Visual, a well-known animation production company in Korea with popular IPs such as "Robocar Poli" and Woobi Boy." The "MOMOLAND X PORORO" video produced by Iconix, the parent company of Studio Gale, which made "Pororo the Little Penguin," was also produced by using Unity.
What are some future plans that Unity has when it comes to doing business in Korea and in Asia?
One thing I’ve realized in the last few years is that the Asian region is very different—the products are the same, but the business approach and focus areas differ greatly from western markets as a whole, and at the same time, each Asian country is also different from each other. For example, Japan has its own genre of animation that is completely different from any other country, while Singapore is not very big on games. As such, I believe it’s our job to be flexible and accept such differences and continue developing Unity's core technology, which is constantly advancing, so that diverse, quality content can be produced with our engine.
In that sense, our future vision is simple: to continuously deliver strong products, and to create our own business model in Korea to help users here adopt the same global product in a localized manner.
What is Unity doing to rise above the competition in the Korean gaming industry?
First and foremost, we are a technology company, so we are consistently evolving to meet the needs of the technology market and our users. Some of the activities we conduct to help the developer community in Korea include informative lectures and showcases during our annual global developers’ conference, Unite Seoul. We are also actively striving to share information and know-how related to the Unity engine with Korean developers through Unity Evangelists, who are essentially the “missionaries” of Unity technology, and Unity Masters, a group of qualified Unity professionals.
We also offer the Unity Indie Clinic, a one-on-one session where a tech team manager from Unity provides consultations to an indie game developer who is having difficulty developing content. Furthermore, we recently hosted a competition called "Unity for Humanity 2019," which supports and awards socially meaningful content produced with Unity. In addition, since 2017 we’ve been hosting the MWU Korea Awards, an event in which outstanding works produced with Unity are voted on to award the most popular works created by domestic developers.
We are also putting our efforts toward revitalizing Unity education. The newly launched Unity Innovation Alliance Program is a key example of this. This program provides Unity education-related benefits to innovative universities selected by the Korean government’s industry-affiliated university finance sponsorship programs. On top of that, we have the Unity Education License Support Program, which encourages active Unity education. For ordinary universities, elementary, middle, and high schools that are selected as program beneficiaries, we are granting our education license free of charge for one semester. We also offer the Unity Certified Instructor (UCI) program to select leaders who are skilled in Unity technology and competent as instructors and provide them with support, and we hosted “Unity Education Day,” where Unity educators from the various universities and institutions gathered to discuss ways to foster next-generation leaders.
By Grace Park (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Investment Public Relations Team / Invest Korea
Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA)