With Kakao’s assistance, a Korean video game entrepreneur, Kim Jae-young, reaches billionaire status.
After receiving a $925 million investment from regional internet giant Kakao, Kim Jae-young, the creator of South Korean online game maker Lionheart Studio, has become the third gaming entrepreneur in the nation’s video game-obsessed nation to reach billionaire status since last year.
At the end of June, Kakao Games Europe, the European division of Kakao Games, the business’s gaming division, purchased a 30.37 percent share in Lionheart for 1.2 trillion won ($925 million), giving the company a $3 billion valuation. Kim, who currently owns 34.67 percent of Lionheart, sold the majority of her interest to the company. Lionheart’s CEO and chairman Kim also holds a 2.87 percent ownership in Kakao Games, a company whose sales soared as a result of Lionheart’s popular online game Odin: Valhalla Rising. Forbes calculates his total wealth to be $1.7 billion. Odin, an app created by Lionheart and distributed by Kakao Games, was first to be downloaded in South Korea in June of last year. Odin was launched by Kakao Games in March in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. The company is getting ready to launch the game in Japan in the second half of this year. According to software monitoring company Sensor Tower, Odin has received over 1 million downloads from the Google Play Store, 10,000 of which came in the previous month. With the release of Odin, Kakao Games’ mobile gaming revenue reached a new high of 410.5 billion won ($315 million) in the third quarter of last year, an increase of 359 percent from the same period the previous year. Lionheart, which only receives revenue from Odin, reported revenues of 232.6 billion won ($180 million) and a loss of 150.7 billion won in 2021, up from a loss of 25.4 billion won the year before. A business representative for Lionheart, based in Seongnam, south of Seoul, claims the company is getting ready for an IPO. According to analyst estimates cited by the local publication Maeil Business Newspaper, Lionheart might be worth up to 8 trillion won ($6 billion). Since Krafton, owned by billionaire Chang Byung-gyu, raised $3.8 billion on the Korea Exchange in August of last year, Lionheart’s IPO would be the biggest by a South Korean game firm. Kim established Lionheart in 2018 primarily with funding from Kakao Gaming and South Korean game developer Wemade, who were early adopters of blockchain-based games. Kakao Games now owns 24.57 percent of Lionheart after gradually increasing its ownership over the years. Wemade is the other significant shareholder, with a 4.23 percent stake after selling Kakao Games about half of its Lionheart stake. Prior to creating Lionheart, Kim co-founded Action Square in 2012, an online gaming company that in 2015 used a special purpose acquisition company to list on the Korea Exchange. Before joining Krafton, Chang co-foundedNeowiz, one of the first online game companies in South Korea. Kim, who has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Seoul’s Hanyang University, has also worked for Japanese video game developer Koei (now a division of billionaire couple Yoichi and Keiko Erikawa’s Koei Tecmo) and Koei Tecmo. Chang and Park Kwan-ho, the creator of Wemade, both attained billionaire status last year. Kim Taek-jin of NCSoft, Bang Jun-hyuk of Netmarble, Lee Joon-ho of NHN Entertainment, Kim Dae-il of Pearl Abyss, and Kwon Hyuk-bin of Smilegate are the other South Korean video game entrepreneurs in the three-comma club.
Before his untimely passing in February at the age of 54, Kim Jung-ju was the richest game entrepreneur in South Korea. He founded Nexon, which popularized the free-to-play model in which players play games for free but must pay for in-game items and accessories. Yoo Jung-Hyun, his wife, debuted on Korea’s 50 Richest lists this year with a net worth of $3 billion. She assisted in founding Nexon in 1994.