The Game Show & Trade, All-Round event, popularly known as G-Star is South Korea’s premier annual games conference that has been held annually since 2005. This year’s G-Star theme was “Expand Your Horizons.” The event was organized by the Korea Association of Game Industry (K-GAMES), co-managed by the G-STAR Organizing Committee and Busan IT Industry Promotion Agency, and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (MCST).

G-Star 2023 took place from November 16-19 at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (BEXCO) in Busan, with the event also available to view online through the G-Star TV channel on YouTube. 3,328 booths were present with 2,432 being business-to-consumer (B2C) and 896 being business-to-business (B2B). 1,038 companies from 42 countries were recorded at the event. G-Star 2023 saw a 13% increase in the number of booths and 5% increase in the number of participating companies compared to last year.

In the 4 days of the conference, there were 197,000 on-site visitors and 944,000 online viewers, a 10% increase for the offsite visitors and a 2.7% decrease for the online viewers. G-Star is catching up to other global game conferences, with the number of attendees almost reaching those of 2023’s Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show, which had 320,000 and 240,000 visitors, respectively.

For this year’s G-Star, Niko Partners’ Korea-based analyst Shin Young Kim represented the company. Here are the observations from the exhibits and notable sessions most discussed at the conference.

Live play of one of the game booths set up by Google Play

Genre diversification and Unreal Engine 5

Niko saw huge interest among the visitors at the conference, with average wait time to visit popular booths of 2-4 hours. One of the most popular booths, which also had one of the longest wait times of around 3-4 hours to enter, was Smilegate RPG’s Lost Ark Mobile as the booth showcased a virtual reality (VR) version of the game for visitors to experience.

While G-Star 2022 was focused on cross-platform interoperability, this year’s edition was more about the diversification of game genres and the utilization of Unreal Engine 5 for improved game graphics. Among the various new games that were displayed, it was clear that Korean game companies are currently focused on capturing the attention of the attendees with high quality graphics, and interesting in-game effects. With most of the new games will utilize Unreal Engine 5 that are scheduled to be released by major Korean game companies in 2024.

It should be noted that Nexon, Netmarble, and NCSoft, the three biggest game companies in Korea that are often dubbed as the “3N” all attended this year’s G-Star. NCSoft, which last attended the conference in 2015, put one of the largest booths displaying 7 new games. The company also gained media attention when Kim Taek-Jin, founder and CEO of NCSoft, made a surprise visit to the company’s B2B booth on the first day of the conference. Netmarble also had one of the largest booths spanning three sections with huge monitors that display the company’s new games. Nexon, on the other hand, just set up a small B2B booth, although the booth of FC Online, EA’s popular game that is published in Korea by Nexon, is among the most popular booths in the event.

 Gamers flock to Netmarble booth to try out new titles: The Seven Deadly Sins: Origin and RF Online Next

Notable releases and tech showcased

  • NCSoft
    • Project BSS, a mobile RPG, based off the Blade & Soul IP, is scheduled to be released in H1 2024.
    • Project LLL, an open world MMO shooting game on PC and console with no specific release date.
    • Battle Crush, a combat action game on mobile, scheduled to be released in H1 2024.
  • Netmarble
    • Showcased 3 new games at the BTC booth with large monitors set up, side by side that drew one of the largest crowds.
    • The Seven Deadly Sins: Origin, an open world RPG on PC, mobile, and console, scheduled to be released in H2 2024.
    • Demis Re:Born, a collecting RPG on PC and mobile, scheduled to be released in H2 2024.
    • RF Online Next, MMORPG on PC and mobile, scheduled to be released in H2 2024.
    • All three games are being developed by Netmarble’s subsidiaries Netmarble F&C and Netmarble N2.
  • Nexon
    • Although Nexon did not set up a booth on the BTC floor, it hosted FC PRO Festival with Electronic Arts at the Bexco Auditorium.
    • The First Descendant, an action RPG/third-person shooter (TPS) on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC, is scheduled to be released in 2024.
  • Krafton
    • Previewed Dark and Darker Mobile, a battle royale/dungeon crawler based off the original IP of Dark and Darker on PC developed by Ironmace, which received positive feedback that it plays very well on the mobile device.
    • inZOI, a life simulator game, is scheduled to be available on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.
    • Both games are projected to be released in H1 and H2 2024 respectively.
  • Wemade
    • Revealed Legend of Ymir, an MMORPG on PC and mobile, scheduled for Q3 2024 release.
  • Smilegate
    • Set up one of the biggest booths and had one of the longest queues at the conference. The company had positive reviews from both the media and visitors.
    • Lost Ark Mobile, a mobile MMORPG was showcased but without a schedule for its release date.
    • Smilegate RPG also put a virtual reality (VR) experience zone for the new game.
  • Google Play
    • The company also set up booths that saw one of the largest visitor numbers.
    • The booth took a large part of the B2C floor, with similar scale as major local game developers.

  Cosplay of one of the popular booths by Krafton, Dark and Darker Mobile

Niko sees huge enthusiasm and positive outlook from Korea’s game companies and gamers for the development of the industry at G-Star 2023. For further information on Korea’s games market, check out our 2023 Korea Games Market report, part of our East Asia Games Market Reports series.