It was in 2014 when Kim Chang-han, a former child computer prodigy who won national coding competitions in South Korea in the 1980s, had to layoff a third of the employees at his gaming startup. Since 2000, all three of his multiplayer online gaming startups had failed.
“That was the darkest time in my life,” Kim, 46, recalled. The following year, he sold his firm to the company now known as Krafton Inc., which he joined as an executive producer.
As a last attempt to succeed in the business, he decided to make an online game where players compete against one another in an ever-shrinking battlefield to be the last person standing, known as battle royale. “Every fiber in my being was telling me to make this game,” he said.
Kim persuaded the Irishman Brendan Greene to join the company and move to South Korea as the game’s creative director.
Bluehole Inc., as Krafton was called at the time, released Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG, in 2017. It became one of the most successful games of all time, with the PC and console versions selling more than 70 million copies and the mobile version being downloaded about 600 million times, according to Krafton.
Now the company is planning an initial public offering (IPO) in mid-to-late 2021 that could be South Korea’s biggest in years. The share sale could raise billions of dollars, Kim, who became Krafton’s chief executive officer last year, said in an interview in Seoul, declining to give further details.
The IPO could value the startup at as much as 30 trillion won ($27.2 billion), according to a January 5 report by Eugene Investment & Securities Co.
Krafton, whose name represents a commitment to craftsmanship, manages four game studios but PUBG accounts for the vast majority of its sales and profits, according to Kim. It had revenue of more than $1.1 billion in the nine months ended September, according to a company filing.