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Netmarble signs up star composer Joe Hisaishi for new game

From Studio Ghibli composer, Blackpink’s Jisoo to the CEO himself, Korean game companies deploy high-profile figures for marketing

Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi, best known for composing the music for Studio Ghibli’s famous animation films such as “My Neighbor Totoro” (Netmarble)
Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi, best known for composing the music for Studio Ghibli’s famous animation films such as “My Neighbor Totoro” (Netmarble)


From legendary Studio Ghibli composer to K-pop megastar Blackpink, South Korean game companies are recruiting big names to take things up a notch for their marketing schemes.

On April 1, Korean game publisher Netmarble hired composer Joe Hisaishi as a spokesperson for the company’s new game Second Country: Cross Worlds, set for release on April 14.

Often linked to “Star Wars” composer John Williams, Hisaishi is the artist behind the music for Japanese animation studio’s most famous works -- “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

“Joe Hisaishi’s music will be played in Second Country: Cross Worlds. For users playing the game, it will be just like watching an animation film,” a Netmarble official said.

Netmarble will soon release a video of Joe Hisaishi conducting the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra playing the game’s theme tune.

Second Country: Cross Worlds is a mobile role-playing game based on popular Japanese game series “Ni no Kuni.” The game revolves around a protagonist who dives into the fantasy world of a virtual reality game. As time goes by, the protagonist realizes that the fantasy world is actually real. The protagonist’s mission is to help the queen and rebuild the parallel world.

Meanwhile, Korea’s No. 1 game company Nexon recently hired Blackpink member Jisoo to promote its mobile racing game KartRider Rush+.

Last month, the K-pop star collaborated with Nexon and designed some 10 game items motivated by her nickname “Jisoo Turtle Rabbit Kim.”

According to Jisoo, the superstar always wanted a middle name, and so she decided to give herself one. And thus, Jisoo Turtle Rabbit Kim was born.

Videos of Jisoo designing game items such as a carrot-shaped kart and a “TRK” license plate are available on YouTube.

Rather than hiring celebrities from outside, Kim Taek-jin, the chief executive of NCSoft, is making frequent appearances in game advertisements as himself.

Last November, for example, the CEO showed up in a one-minute YouTube commercial celebrating the first anniversary of Lineage 2M -- NCSoft’s hit mobile role-playing game.

In the commercial, the chief executive appeared as a dwarf blacksmith, wearing thick armor and a fake blonde mustache and a wig. With giant hammers, Kim and other dwarfs forged an Execution Sword, shouting “die!” at every stroke. The Execution Sword is the most powerful item in Lineage 2M. 

NCSoft CEO Kim Taek-jin, dressed as a dwarf, swings a hammer to strike and forge the Execution Sword in a one-minute commercial celebrating the first anniversary of Lineage 2M. (NCSoft)
NCSoft CEO Kim Taek-jin, dressed as a dwarf, swings a hammer to strike and forge the Execution Sword in a one-minute commercial celebrating the first anniversary of Lineage 2M. (NCSoft)


Kim appeared in the commercial to show his support for NC Dinos, the baseball team he owns. At the time, the NC Dinos were playing against the Doosan Bears in the Korean Series. Kim and the dwarfs were shouting “die!” toward the Doosan Bears and the Execution Sword symbolized a weapon to take out their opponents.

Kim’s rather provocative advertisement eventually paid off. On Nov. 24, the NC Dinos won their first Korean Series trophy by beating the Doosan Bears 4-2 in game 6 at Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul. NC Dinos captain Yang Eui-ji hoisted a replica of the Execution Sword with his teammates in the stadium after the game in a scene that was featured in the news coverage of the team’s win.

The YouTube commercial has garnered more than 11 million views as of Apr. 5. 

NC Dinos captain and catcher Yang Eui-ji hoists the Execution Sword, a replica of the most powerful item in NCSoft’s mega hit game Lineage, after winning the Korean Series on Nov. 24. (NCSoft)
NC Dinos captain and catcher Yang Eui-ji hoists the Execution Sword, a replica of the most powerful item in NCSoft’s mega hit game Lineage, after winning the Korean Series on Nov. 24. (NCSoft)


Smilegate, best known for its hit shooting game CrossFire, doesn’t have to dress up its CEO as a dwarf, because the company’s cute mascot “Mokoko” is doing all the work.

Smilegate’s action role-playing game Lost Ark, which has ranked as the 8th or 9th most popular game in Korea since its launch in 2018, saw its popularity surge recently, even entering the top 3 list as of March 31, according to game data provider Gametrics.

Behind the game’s sudden success, industry sources point out two factors. First, Lost Ark is one of the few games not embroiled in the ongoing game odds manipulation scandal. Second, the game’s mascot Mokoko is just simply impossible to resist. 

A dancing Mokoko, the mascot of Smilegate’s hit game Lost Ark (Smilegate)
A dancing Mokoko, the mascot of Smilegate’s hit game Lost Ark (Smilegate)


To celebrate entering the top 3, Smilegate on March 31 released emoticons of Mokoko on KakaoTalk, the country’s most popular messenger app. Just in one hour, all 300,000 sets of Mokoko emoticons were sold out. For users who missed the chance, Smilegate reissued 200,000 more sets.

Another game firm, Pearl Abyss, is branching out to the real world, using its hit action and adventure game Black Desert. Last December, it introduced a shampoo for hair loss in collaboration with a local cosmetics brand Swagger, saying that the product would bring an oasis to those with hair as dry as a “desert.” 

Pearl Abyss’ shampoo advertisement which reads, “Bring the softness of an oasis to your hair that is as barren as a desert.” (Pearl Abyss)
Pearl Abyss’ shampoo advertisement which reads, “Bring the softness of an oasis to your hair that is as barren as a desert.” (Pearl Abyss)


The partnership followed its previous attempt at selling dried seaweed. Teaming up with Kwangcheon Kim, a Korean seasoned laver producer with more than 50 years of history, the firm released seasoned laver products roasted by “desert” heat.

By Kim Byung-wook (kbw@heraldcorp.com)
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