May 15, 2024

The spending habits of Korean mobile gamers: IAP trends shaping 2024

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3 key findings for the Korean mobile game market

Understanding Korean mobile game spenders

  • Basic spender behaviors
  • Acquisition trends

Spending dynamics to increase LTV

  • Why Korean players spend
  • What Korean players spend on
  • When Korean players spend
  • Influencing investments

Engaging and retaining Korean spenders

  • Promotional channels
  • Loyalty programs

Looking ahead at Korean gamer spending in 2024 

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As the behavior of modern mobile gamers continues to evolve with the world around us, unraveling the motivations and preferences driving in-game spend becomes more crucial than ever. Not only does this understanding result in gaming experiences that players will enjoy and invest in, but also the emergence of new strategies for 2024 and beyond. That’s why we launched the 2024 Mobile Gaming Spender Report, an analysis of nearly 2,000 mobile game IAP spenders that spans their behaviors, motivations, engagement dynamics, and more.

While the report itself focuses on the North American market, below we outline key insights learned from Korean mobile IAP spenders, specifically. This pointed focus serves to support publishers who tailor their approach by market for higher impact on a global scale.

With a strong gaming culture and high smartphone penetration, South Korea presents a competitive yet lucrative market for mobile games. In fact, they have the second highest consumer spend worldwide on Google Play according to’s State of Mobile Gaming 2024 Report: The market is chiefly dominated by RPG and Puzzle genres when it comes to popularity, with consumer spend largely captured by top massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).

By diving into the trends unique to the Korean gaming landscape, publishers can revise their acquisition, monetization, and engagement strategies to effectively resonate with Korean players. Such strategies enable refined in-game experiences that could go on to account for a greater share of the IAP wallet in this market.

Note: This article’s findings are based on a survey of over 200 Korean mobile game spenders (aged 18+) from January 2024. These findings are accurate for mobile game spenders in Korea plus or minus 9% based on the sample size The full report is based on nearly 2,000 mobile game IAP spenders in North America.

👀 Related reading: [Report] Mobile gaming IAP spend trends for 2024: Player motivations, churn, and more

3 key findings for the Korean mobile game market

Before diving into the full report below, consider these three insights that present distinct opportunities for publishers in the Korean market:

1. Optimize the FTUE to capitalize on Korean spenders’ willingness to spend on D1

Korean mobile game IAP spenders are more likely to spend within the first day of playing compared to their North American counterparts (12% vs 5%). As such, publishers should ensure that enticing IAP offers are communicated directly to this user base during their first-time user experience (FTUE). (1

Moreover, with a significant portion of Korean spenders (31%) currently expressing interest in discounted items, it’s perhaps worth displaying discounted starter packs within the first day to further optimize this approach for capitalizing on FTUE. (2)

2. Leverage social influence to encourage spend

Korean spenders are more likely to be influenced by social factors than their North American counterparts, especially when it comes to competition. Think of features such as leaderboards, challenges, and rankings. (3)

Publishers can leverage competition in a number of ways across the player lifetime through influencer campaigns to improve UA efforts or robust in-game referral systems for players to challenge their friends and family members. By building a strong, active community in this market, publishers can further capitalize on the power of social and community engagement to find and retain new players and spenders alike.

3. Integrate loyalty-based rewards to increase spender engagement 

Korean mobile spenders are more likely to participate in loyalty programs, with 89% of them partaking in such programs outside of gaming, and 44% reporting they’d be more likely to spend in-game with the prospect of increased rewards.(4

To improve engagement with your Korean players and encourage spending, consider launching your own loyalty program or introducing new types of rewards within the game to improve the perceived cost-to-value ratio of IAP in your titles.

Understanding Korean mobile game spenders

According to’s State of Mobile Gaming 2024 Report, South Korea has seen a decline in mobile game downloads from 2022 to 2023, but a rise in spending of $1.06 billion USD. So while acquisition is trending down, in-game spending is on the rise.

Through our research, we then sought to answer the following questions: With around 63% of South Koreans being gamers, who exactly are the Korean gamers spending on mobile game IAP, and how can publishers acquire them?

Basic spender behaviors

Mobile gaming experiences vary greatly across genres and encourage different engagement and investment behaviors among Korean players. And while mobile spenders don’t relegate themselves to playing just one type of game at a time, they are more selective when it comes to the games they spend in.

In particular, 45% of Korean spenders tend to spend money in two or three games per month, compared to 43% who spend in just one game. But when it comes to North American spenders, Korean spenders are twice as likely to spend in over six different titles per month (8% vs 4%).

A graph of Korean vs North American mobile game spenders, number of games spent in per month
Korean spenders spend in more titles per month than their North American counterparts.

Acquisition trends

Our 2024 Mobile Gaming Spender Report found that mobile game ads are the most common way for mobile spenders to discover new titles, with nearly one in three (32%) reporting it as their main discovery channel. This is followed by organic discovery through the App Store and top chart rankings (25%), as well as recommendations from family and friends (22%).

Publishers should not overlook the power of player loyalty as an acquisition channel. Word-of-mouth referrals can lead to new game growth, essentially helping to create a growth flywheel from player engagement to new acquisition, as engaged players generally refer games they enjoy to their friends: A majority of Korean spenders (66%) have installed at least one game from a referral in the last year, with over one-quarter (26%) installing at least three games from referrals.

"Referrals represent a valid strategy that games will need to focus on more, especially when we’re discussing the increasing need for first-party data. Looking at it through this lens, referrals are more cost-efficient and can really help games grow their user base and help marketers when it comes to attribution."– Faith Price, Director of Growth Marketing at DoubleDown Interactive
The importance of game referrals for Korean spenders

When it comes to in-game ads as a discovery source, Korean mobile spenders are less likely than their North American counterparts to take positive reviews, ratings, and promotions into consideration when deciding to install a game. Relevant gameplay is by far the most important in both markets.

Chart of what motivates mobile game spenders to click on ads (Korean and north american)
The resounding impact of relevant gameplay across markets

Spending dynamics to increase LTV

With increasing competition for players’ share of wallet, it’s crucial that publishers understand the core levers that drive player spending to lay the foundation for long-term loyalty and increased lifetime value (LTV). To do this, let’s look at why, when, and what Korean spenders purchase in their mobile gaming experiences.

Why Korean players spend

Similar to our findings in the 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report, progression continues to be a leading reason for players to not only engage with a game, but to invest in their experience. A majority of Korean mobile spenders (66%) are motivated to spend in order to enhance their gameplay progression, followed by personal enjoyment or satisfaction (49%) as another motivating factor.

One critical distinction from their North American counterparts is that Korean spenders are much less likely to spend in order to unlock exclusive content (14% vs 37%), to enjoy an ad-free experience (16% vs 29%), or to support game developers (7% vs 18%).

Spend motivations in mobile games for korean and north american mobile gamers
Motivations to spend differ greatly between markets

This indicates that honing in on the reasons why Korean gamers play – and offering IAP options to expand upon the gameplay experience – may be the best way to capture a larger share of IAP wallet in the Korean market.

To summarize, the top reasons Korean spenders report as their motivations to play mobile games are:

  1. Relaxation: To pass time and be entertained (79%)
  2. Fantasy: To seek new virtual worlds and experiences (29%)
  3. Discovery: To learn and discover new things (25%)

On the flip side, the least common reasons for Korean spenders to play games are Power (3%), Expertise (6%), and Self-expression (12%).

What Korean players spend on

In-game currency is the most popular type of IAP reported by 50% of Korean mobile spenders, followed by bundles (31%), and extra energy, lives, or hints (27%). Loot boxes and cosmetic items are the least popular type of IAP bought in the market.

Types of IAP Korean mobile gamers spend on
In-game currency is the preferred IAP type reported by half of Korean mobile spenders.

When they spend

If a Korean spender is enjoying a new mobile game they’ve picked up, it could still take them up to a full month to make that first purchase. In fact, nearly half of Korean spenders (47%) report they’ll make their first purchase by D30, but only after D7.

Additionally, Korean spenders are still more likely than their North American counterparts to make their first purchase by D1 (12% vs 5%), though 6% say that it varies – and one spender, in particular, describes the content of the game and whether it’s fun as central factors for deciding whether or not they’ll make a purchase.

Time to first purchase North American spenders Korean spenders
By D1 5% 12%
By D3 13% 17%
By D7 18% 19%
By D30 42% 47%

When it comes to what triggers a specific purchase, 22% of Korean spenders say it depends on the situation, while 31% report that they’ll spend when they reach a turning point in the game or when they need to progress. Meanwhile, 18% say that they’ll spend when they see a deal that’s too good to pass up.

Influencing investments

What might influence Korean spenders to spend more on their in-game purchases? Personalized deals. With nearly half of Korean mobile spenders (49%) reporting they’d spend more if offered personalized deals based on their play style or purchase history, this could be a good area to experiment with varying offers. Other interesting offer types to include in your strategy range from limited-time offers (40%) to holiday/event promotions (35%).

What IAP offers korean mobile gamers would spend on
Types of offers that could increase your share of wallet in Korea

When it comes to the social aspects of mobile gaming, Korean spenders are more influenced than North American spenders. So while 69% of North American mobile game IAP spenders report that they’re not influenced by other players in their spend decisions, only 38% of Korean spenders say the same.

The leading social factors that influence spenders in this market involve competitive leaderboards, challenges, and rankings (29%), with collaborative achievements and events following at 12%. This aligns with the earlier finding from Stastista that shows the majority of consumer spend in Korean mobile gaming is from MMORPGs, an inherently social genre.

“Korean gamers embody the spirit of "Play to win" unlike any other market. Compared to North Americans, Korean mobile gamers are eager to compete and become stronger than their peers, being more heavily influenced by social factors in their mobile gaming experiences. This is highlighted by the fact that highly competitive genres like MMORPGs dominate the region in terms of popularity. Publishers may benefit from taking note and introducing more social features into their mobile games to encourage competition and spend in this market.” – Sana Lee, Senior Account Executive for Korea at Mistplay

Engaging and retaining Korean spenders

While initial game engagement might be fueled by novelty, establishing a pattern of engagement and spending relies on balancing game design with strategically placed IAP offers to nurture players’ return to the experience and unlock extra value through spending. Let’s evaluate two main ways that publishers can further engage spenders: loyalty programs and lifecycle marketing channels.

Promotional channels

Creating IAP deals for spenders is one thing, but what are the most effective channels to market them? While in-game promotions remain tried and true across geos, Koreans are much more likely to prefer push notifications and less likely to want texts than their North American counterparts.In addition, email marketing can provide an underused but potentially effective channel for publishers to consider for all their lifecycle strategies, as nearly a quarter of spenders are open to receiving information about offers through this channel.

Lifecycle marketing preferences of north american and korean mobile gamers
Koreans generally prefer receiving game promotions through push notifications.

This indicates that diversifying your lifecycle strategy according to each market could help maintain or grow LTV in the coming year. This is especially true if you haven’t tapped into this opportunity yet, as different markets show preferences for specific communication channels, such as WeChat, KakaoTalk, and WhatsApp, which are not often used for marketing in North America.

Loyalty programs

Did you know that Korean spenders are more likely to be a part of loyalty programs in their day-to-day lives than North American spenders? While 21% of North American spenders report not being involved in any loyalty programs, only 11% of their Korean counterparts say the same – which means that a staggering 89% of Korean mobile game spenders partake in loyalty programs.

Types of loyalty programs mobile gamers participate in
Types of loyalty programs Korean vs North American spenders tend to partake in

Offering loyalty points and cash back rewards systems has become an increasingly popular business strategy in Korea as consumer needs become more diverse and brands vie for share of wallet across industries. A recent 2022 report on the South Korean loyalty programs market expands on this shift, predicting that the market is expected to grow by 12% on an annual basis and projected to reach a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of $9703.7 million USD by 2026.

“The loyalty and rewards programs industry in South Korea is one of the more mature ones compared to some of the other Asian markets, such as India. The publisher expects a lot more innovation to take place in the South Korean loyalty landscape over the next four to eight quarters, which will subsequently drive the growth of the loyalty and rewards programs industry in the country.”

Opportunity clearly awaits in the realm of mobile gaming as well. While gaming loyalty programs appear to be less popular among Korean spenders, 44% of Korean spenders report that having a loyalty program within their mobile games would positively impact their likelihood to spend – with 41% saying they’d be much more likely to spend in those games. This reiterates how integrated loyalty programs that increase the perceived value of in-game purchases could very well encourage continued spend, especially as loyalty programs become so widely adopted in the market.

“Loyalty programs have been around for a while... But what is new is the feeling that adding a loyalty program is the minimum you have to offer. It has become the baseline by which all games have to measure themselves, and part of the offer games have to make because it speaks directly to the players and what they want – especially since the players’ decision to spend isn’t influenced by others as much as the kind of deal the game itself offers.” – Gus Viegas, Vice President of Marketing at Cosmic Lounge

Interested in experimenting with how a loyalty program can power up your UA and grow your LTV? Learn about what Mistplay has to offer for mobile game publishers.

Looking ahead at Korean gamer spending in 2024 

Game spending is closely tied to disposable income, and with’s State of Mobile Gaming 2024 Report showing that recent economic headwinds disproportionately impact mobile games, it’s clear that the current economy and inflation will continue to have a major impact on the industry. Spenders themselves – in both North American and Korean markets – support this claim, as many plan to reduce spending this year.

Korean mobile game spenders, in particular, feel more certain of the changes to their in-game spending this year, with 36% planning to reduce their spending (and only 7% planning to increase it).

Graph of korean mobile gamer IAP spend change in 2024
The possible impact of economic factors on spending habits in 2024

To better manage their in-game spending budgets, Korean spenders are also considering: 

  • Purchasing more discounted and on-sale items (31%)
  • Spending in fewer games overall (28%)
  • Spending less frequently (18%)

Moving forward, mobile game publishers in all markets will certainly continue to face increased competition for player wallet share and brand loyalty. With numerous games and genres vying for a limited pool of player spend, and players tightening their budgets given the current economy, publishers need to strategically position themselves to build long-term loyalty, and ultimately, scale in a sustainable manner.

“Yes, it is true that players will spend less, and we have a very unstable economy ahead of us. This amplifies the importance of finding new ways and new placements for advertising and offers that allow us to find new pockets of profitability and revenue.” – Smith Stephineson Dela Peña, Senior User Acquisition Manager at Gameloft for Brands

👀 Related reading:[Report] Mobile gaming IAP spend trends for 2024: Player motivations, churn, and more

Unlock Mistplay’s insights to plan your 2024 growth strategy

Understanding the underlying motivations and behaviors of your players (and spenders) within your target markets is becoming increasingly important. After all, publisher and player budgets are steadily decreasing in 2024 as the market only becomes more competitive. But growth is still possible.

Download the 2024 Mobile Gaming Spender Report today to get fresh insights on the North American market and develop new IAP strategies to preserve or even increase your LTV in 2024 and beyond.

Want more insights about mobile gaming loyalty, engagement, and spend? Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with the latest insights Mistplay has to offer.


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