Director, Autos, Transportation & Manufacturing at Unity Technologies
JungHo (Mac) has over 20 years experience in the gaming industry starting and running Western publisher offices in South Korea. He currently runs Automotive, Transportation, and Manufacturing for Unity Technologies, one of the largest game engine solutions globally, where he is responsible for bringing the engine to new industrial applications. Previously, Mac started EA’s Korean business in 2000 and launched Blizzard in 2004 where he built the online services for World of Warcraft. In 2010 he led Take Two’s Korean office and also ran Mackevision and Wargaming in Korea. Read moreView Profile Page
How would you describe the difference between the Korean gamer and a US or Western gamer?
I think the Korean player plays for longer hours. When I discuss with US publishers or Western publishers, they believe the Korean player is really a hardcore game player. But my understanding is a little bit different. The difference is, the Korean player is really good at the controls, so they keep playing the game and they practice how to control. If you see the global competition of the game, the Koreans are really good at StarCraft and League of Legends because they keep playing the game, so they understand the character. They keep practicing and they keep studying repeatedly. But actually, they are not really hardcore. They don’t really try to understand all the philosophy. It’s a little bit different. They don’t really play all different kinds of games. They have one or two preferred games that they choose to play and then they just keep practicing and studying how to control well. It’s more that they are really good on the controlling basis. So gameplaying for longer hours.
I think the hours are really heavy for the Koreans. Every time the developer thinks that this content will be consumed in three or six months, usually, in Korea, the player has consumed the content in less than one or two months. The publisher is always surprised because they had a six-month plan for this content and it’s all been consumed in between one and three months. Then the user will start to leave the game, because the Western publisher is not really able to support it. I think that is a big difference. Long hours game play and they are just pursuing to the end and they really focus on winning the game itself and consuming fast. Those are the big differences as compared to the other markets.
Why do you think the US and Western publishers’ IP is so successful in Korea?
Because it’s really deep. The US and the West has a very long gaming history. Gaming is not just gaming. To develop one really good game, it requires many different things. One is the depth of the story of the game itself and, also, IT technologies and the graphics. In Korea, even though we have 5,000 of history, we are lacking the content. We are good at the IT, on the development and all other things, but we don’t have the outstanding stories to make the game player really enjoy it.
Now it has been improved a lot, because we are trying to learn from the Western publishers. But we are lacking the content and that is the reason why, compared to the Korean games in the early 2000s, the depth of the game story of the Western game publishers was really good.
It’s a cultural thing?
One reason the Korean game was successful, as I said, was that gameplay wise, the depth is really deep in the Western ones, but the behavior is very different. Western publishers and developers, initially, could not understand the behavior. StarCraft was very successful, but then EA couldn’t make a success. The game, in every culture in Korea, is a fashion. They love the game which is loved by their friends. Socializing is a key factor so that is the main chance for it to be successful, because people need to play together.
I think that is one of the big differences is that the Western player has their own taste. They don’t really care whether their friends play the game or not. If they love the game, they play it. In Korea, one of the big marketing tools, to encourage people to play, is the reference. So people play the games which are played by their friends. We try to target the main influencer and get them to influence their friends to play the game.
How would you compare Unity versus Unreal?
As of today, I don’t think there are big differences now. Initially, it was very different. Games started with Unreal, so it was more hardcore, better graphic. Unreal games had the better graphics and performed better with PC and online games. The starting point was very different because Unity started more for the casual and lighter games. Initially, if you compared Unity and Unreal, people always believed that Unreal had better visual quality and the heavy engines. Unity was considered more lightweight and maybe graphically, the quality was not great at the beginning.
But they have both developed different ways. Unreal is trying to make their engine also usable for the mobile games. It’s still good quality, buy they are trying to make the game engine perform for mobile games. Unity wanted to increase their visual quality, so they developed the Unity engine to perform better. As of today, there are still arguing points. Maybe Unreal has slightly better visualization. But if you compare the engines themselves, the quality is now almost the same. That’s what I believe.
Coming back to the industrial area, that’s very different. But as engines themselves, I don’t think there are big differences, as a gaming engine.
Are Unreal starting to really compete with Unity in the mobile game market? How expensive is Unreal versus Unity, for mobile developers?
We have a different business model. Initially, at the launching period, the developer needed to decide about the one-time payment or some portion of revenue sharing of the game. Depending on how successful the game is, they decide on which way they need to pay for it. But Unity are providing all different types of business models, but it’s a pay per seat. From the moment they need to start developing the game with an engine, they need to purchase it, so that is different.
When I interview developers, they don’t think now that the cost of development on the engine side, is that expensive. The engine is helping them to develop easily. Unreal is used for the mobile games, but it is more used for the heavy gameplay. Unity is used for the more casual game, but even Unity is able to be used for the MMORPGs games, but people choose to use Unreal for the heavy type of game for the mobile, and for others they use Unity. About 70% of the occupancy for the mobile game is by Unity. That’s the difference. As I understand it, about 60% to 70% of mobile games themselves, is Unity. In terms of market dominance, for the mobile game engine, Unity is really popular and is used by more than 60%.
Do you see a risk to Unreal pricing the engine for free to mobile developers, because they can obviously monetize via Fortnite with Riot and they have a different business model with EGS and the publishing side of the business? They can then offer the engine at a much cheaper price, potentially, than Unity?
Going back to the 2000s, Unreal was, initially, a really expensive engine. If they wanted to use Unreal, they needed to pay millions. A million dollars, initially. If they didn’t want to pay a million dollars, then they needed to pay some money and choose revenue sharing. As it moved to mobile games, as you know, mobile game developers are not really rich. So they had to change the business model. The Unreal game engine was purchased by the bigger publishers such as NCSoft, Nexon. They are also being used for the MMORPGs game. For the MMORPGs games, the good thing is, the life of the game is longer, so that’s maybe the reason that Unreal is still not that risky, in providing their business model. Unity is a player, but more in a casual way, with more small developers using it. I think that’s one of the reasons. If there are only limited people and the game is not really successful, then maybe Unreal needs to change the business model to purchasing. But today, the market is still naturally shared both ways. Unreal is still in very good shape.
Unreal and Epic are not a pure engine company. They are also a game developer and a game publisher. They have had a big success with Fortnite; huge money. Unity is a pure engine company. We are not creating the game itself, so that’s a big difference between them.