Krafton is one of the world’s premier video game publishers. After experiencing the explosive success of PUBG in the late 2010s, Krafton rebranded in 2018, went public in 2021, and has since been working to not just extend the PUBG brand to new games, platforms, and regions but also kickstart new IPs with innovative playstyles and partner with emerging developers around the world.

To dig into the details, host Aaron Bush is joined by Maria Park, who currently serves as Head of Corporate Development at Krafton and previously was Head of Strategy at PUBG Corporation. In our conversation, we explore what strategically changed after going public, what it was like to navigate PUBG during the heights of battle royale, and the ins-and-outs of Krafton’s growth strategy. We cover lessons learned in taking IPs multiplatform, why Krafton is “scaling up creative,” how the company manages its investments, and how Krafton is leveraging emerging technologies like UGC and AI.


We’d also like to thank Overwolf for making this episode possible! Whether you're a gamer, creator, or game studio, Overwolf is the ultimate destination for integrating UGC in games! You can check out all Overwolf has to offer at

This transcript is machine-generated, and we apologize for any errors.

Aaron: Hi everyone. I'm your host, Aaron Bush. And today I'm excited to chat with Maria Park. Maria is VP and head of corporate development at Krafton. She played an important strategic role in pub G and the height of battle Royale.

And today she is involved in all sorts of growth strategy and investment work. At Krafton, which of course is now one of the world's largest publishers with over 10 studios, a multi-platform presence, a growing number of franchises and investments and much more. And today we're going to try to learn as much as we can about Krafton, its strategy and everything Maria has worked on.

So with all of that said, Maria. Welcome to the Naavik Gaming Podcast.

Maria: Aaron, thanks for having us. It's a great pleasure.

Aaron: Awesome. I think the best place to start is just to set the scene. Maria, maybe could you just quickly tell us about your personal journey in the games industry so far?

Maria: I actually began my career in business consulting, helping out the companies with the business growth strategy, improving operational efficiency, financial optimization across various industries.

But working in consulting for about 10 years, I always dreamed of combining my professional skills with my passion, something that I really love to do. Growing up, my younger brother and I spent. countless hours playing video games together and I've been a hardcore gamer all my life. So this passion drove me to seek opportunities exclusively within the game industry.

I found my break with Riot Games. That was one of the few companies that actually appreciated my background in consulting and my gamer passion back then. So after speaking with them, I immediately connected with their philosophy, like their Completely player focused and the team I'd be working with were just great.

So I joined Riot as a strategy lead focusing primarily on Korea's regional publishing and eSports strategy. In my fourth year at Riot a close friend introduced me to a game Doom, his company had invested in he ran a VC company which was launching its early access day one. The game was PUBG.

I hadn't played anything exciting in years ended up recommending it to over 30 friends and colleagues on the first day I played. Given my enthusiasm for PUBG, it was no surprise to anyone when I decided to join PUBG and leave Riot as a head of strategy. It was about six and a half years ago.

Since then, my role had involved to cover corporate development from the corporate strategy which includes investment and MNA strategic partnerships and the company's growth strategy.

Aaron: It sounds like a lot of fun and we'll dig into all of that over, over this interview. But just to continue setting the scene and providing some context.

For everything we will talk about. Could you just remind us of Krafton's history? I know that after pub G exploded, Krafton was formed and 2018, I believe to become the parent company, it's a blue hole, which made pub G and some other subsidiaries, but, um, what was that time? Like, Like, how did you and the team think about and work through that transition and 2018?

Maria: So, Bluehole had been the parent company of PUBG. Later on, we just rebranded the company as Krafton, and now the new Bluehole is actually one of our independent studios subsidiary to Krafton. The company was founded by a group of engineers and developers. So Crafton has always maintained a very developer friendly culture.

I thought that was like the biggest difference in terms of culture from Riot when I first joined the company. They value the creative autonomy of our studios and development teams. And given this ethos, PUBG was run quite independently from the start. So there wasn't really a significant shift in our work setting.

And the core values of PUBG Fostering creativity and granting autonomy to development studios remain unchanged. So this continuity allowed PubG to continue to innovate and expand as an independent studio. And the transition was more about formalizing our structure to support future growth, like making alignments and diversification across the different studios.

So rather than altering the day to day operations that Already made PubG a success. So it was more about like structure change.

Aaron: Yeah. Was that pretty much the same then for going public? And I know that took place a few years later, I think 2021. Was that pretty much a business as usual or did going public unlock, new and interesting things for Krafton, but also the work specifically you were doing?

Maria: It definitely did bring a lot of changes and opportunities. Of course going public means that you raise a lot of capital that opens doors to your opportunities. But at the same time going public brought like a new level of accountability and transparency to our operations.

So it required us to implement a more strategic, like a strategic planning process. And and also play plays a much greater emphasis on shareholder value and also be able to tell the growth strategies and also like the planning to, to our shareholders in the market. And one thing that hasn't really changed even after going public is our focus on creating something unique and truly different.

We believe that the biggest risk in gaming is not taking any risk at all. And I believe a great game will find or even created for market. But on the other hand, like operating as a public company in the gaming industry can be quite tricky due to that inherent risk. Inherent uncertainty in commercial success of a new game.

Predicting the success of a game is particularly difficult. I think it's because like interactive content involves a complex combination of many variables. As well as other external variables such as like a player's psychology and social atmosphere. So like during the COVID, the people Start playing like party games with the friends.

This trend changes like over time. And there are so many different variables that affect this trend. And it's hard to gauge the true player experience until the game is fully playable. So as a reasonable public company, we've learned to share a reliable growth strategy in the story and also demonstrate success through like tangible results.

Now I think we better. Like we know better about how to balance short term performance and long term growth and also ensure that we continue to innovate while also like meeting market and player expectations.

Aaron: Gotcha. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And it's refreshing to hear about the willingness to still take some risk and, taking risk and innovating, go Hand in hand in a lot of ways.

And sometimes I feel at least in the West that, many of our largest publishers have become so risk averse lately. Yeah, it's just great to hear that. Crafting is thinking a little bit differently about it, even though you have to balance more stakeholders with different expectations these days as well one more question to set context for listeners who might not be as deeply familiar.

With your business. What all does craft and encompass today, just in terms of the studios that covers the strategies that covers, how would you. Break that down for anyone trying to catch up with all that crafting is today.

Maria: Our mission is to scale up the creative. We sort of fine tune the message of the phrase a little bit.

So we've been dedicated to discovering unique and innovative things. gameplay. We just don't want to replicate what's already successful, but try to deliver something different, like a unique experience to the gamers. So from inception, production, to service, we focus on mainstreaming core gameplay through our scale up approach as a publisher or like a development partner.

And We are definitely committed to nurturing these ideas and persistently striving to grow them into beloved IPs that could last for a long time. Firstly, we have a long term growth strategy centered around PUBG, PUBG IPs, alongside providing an evergreen service. For PubG back to Royale so we have a back to Royale PubG, but at the same time, we try to grow PubG IP around this signature title.

And in addition to PubG, we have a multiple exciting projects in development. I teams across the globe for various platforms. You've probably seen this somewhere, but enjoy is our life simulation game. The same fence were just amused by this new game that we just announced. And it's a hyper realistic life simulation game that will be coming out sometime next year.

RPG. We thought there is a much wider audience on mobile platform, and that a lot of optimization for the gamer experience on mobile platform was needed. So the team has been working very hard on it, and we just had a close beta test recently, and there's another. Game called Dinka Mobile. This was one of my favorite games that that I discovered last year this was the PC game was actually developed by a single developer based in Australia.

And I just fell in love with the game. It, at first it looks like Animal Crossing but once you play it, you know that the game is totally different. And it's a more of a survival sandbox like simulation game. With the farm simulation aspects to it and we thought that there would be a huge potential to go into a multiplayer survival sandbox game and there's nothing like it on mobile.

So we're actually the teams are working hard to bring it to the mobile and it will probably come out sometime next year. And Black Budget is an extraction shooter Developed by PUBG Studios, they know how to build a shooter game the team we're pretty excited about it. And Subnautica 2 is the underwater survival adventure and crafting, and we're hoping to show it to the world at an early access sometime next year, and the bird that drinks tears of the game adaptation of the Korean fantasy novel with a very strong fan base and many more to come. So we're very excited. And all these projects are that have a unique and innovative aspects. But we're very excited about it. And also uh, besides the new project we're expanding into emerging markets.

So we're establishing our position as India's premier game company, starting with the BGMI. It's a PUBG mobile game, and this has definitely captured the nation's heart. By far the largest team in the country. And so we have been heavily investing in India's ecosystem growth over the past few years.

Not just in games, but overall, like the startup and tech industry. And also like we're constantly exploring new technologies. To bring our full imagination to life. I know we will talk more about AI in a few moments, but we do deep learning in three main areas and have invested significant resources.

The first is like AI to introduce a new form of gameplay and AI as a new way to create. And AI to improve game production efficiency. So these are the 3 perspectives that we look at AI and we've been forming partnerships, ramping up the teams and investing in AI research and also investing into tech companies, relevant tech companies.

And lastly, we have been proactively investing in game studios. That's one of my main jobs. We believe that creativity cannot be easily taught, and so it better be discovered. And also while a big budget can help a team achieve high fidelity, we've learned over time that it does not necessarily guarantee a fun game.

So we invest In and for partnerships with so many different companies from small size to large size. And last year alone, we made about 15 different investments and partnerships. And in the first quarter of this year, we met with over 250 game studios. So we've been very proactively meeting and supporting the studios all over the world.

And I guess yeah, that's. That's about it for this year.

Aaron: That's a lot. Clearly Crafton has a lot going on. And that's exciting. It seems like a growing amount. Going on as more attempts are being made on different genres, different franchises different technologies all sorts of interesting things.

You mentioned that your role, a big part of it is making investments. And we can talk more about what that entails a bit later, but what else does, being the head of corporate development mean day to day for you at Crafton?

Maria: As head of corporate development, I oversee investments it's branches into the minority investments and the full acquisitions, again, any and also even if it doesn't entail the equity investment, we sometimes for form strategic partnerships with the companies that we would love to work with.

And also my role involves discovering talented teams across the world identifying their growth opportunities also negotiating the deals. We try to structure like a win strategy for our partners. So no one party takes all for the effort and the success. And addressing the needs of our invested studios as their studio champion or like board members also a big portion of my daily job.

Additionally, I developed strategic planning to create synergies across the company. So we have multiple studios and invested studios across the world. And we, I try to identify where we can help and make connections across the studios to really help each other. And also ensure our strategic initiatives align with the craft team's overall vision and goals.

Aaron: Got it. Okay, very cool. Again there's so much of that we'll, we'll dig to in a bit, but before we really dig into the weeds of crafting strategy, the investments, all of that I kind of want to go back in time and discuss your days at pub G, because that was such a, Unique game at such a unique moment in time in the games industry, you were the head of strategy at pub G corporation from 2018 to 2020, I think, and that was really when battle Royale was peaking and becoming super competitive.

And so I would just love to, to know what was that time like for you? What were some of the challenges and opportunities you were. Working through at the time.

Maria: So it was an incredibly dynamic and challenging period because everything was the first time for many of us. But it was also a lot of fun.

The genre was exploding with the new titles emerging every day. . Yeah. And, but like the first thing we focused on was identify the core elements. that made PUBG irreplaceably fun and addictive. And we also aim to understand, like, why some players were leaving the game. And this study actually helped us determine what to keep and what to enhance to differentiate PUBG from the rest.

Because a lot of players, especially they like once they played hundreds and thousands of hours, like they want more fast paced experience, but once we get change our game to, one of many like fast paced shooters, like there'll be no pub G anymore. While highlighting our core values we continuously innovate PUBG to elevate our live service, like offer vibrant gameplay experiences and keep player base engaged.

It was a time of intense competition, but also like one of the great Creativity and strategic thinking. And we actually learned to prioritize and where to focus. Yeah, it was a valuable timing for all of us.

Aaron: Yeah for sure. And I know PUBG, the engagement of that game peaked in late 2017, but.

What many people listening might not realize is that if you take a look right now, PUBG's revenue has actually grown each of the past three years. And over the past year in fiscal 2023, revenue for the game was up 37 percent year over year. So I would just love to learn a bit more about like, how has the team thought about rejuvenating and finding new growth opportunities for that franchise now, several years after it became a big phenomenon.

Maria: I don't want to sound like a textbook, but I don't really think there's a one turnkey solution for this. The team has been hardworking and and they've been innovative in keeping PUBG relevant. And I guess I go, the most important part is that they listen closely to the player community and have learned to reinterpret interpret their the community's true needs.

Because a lot of players, they ask for one thing, but they they don't really, you know, Like, it doesn't really necessarily make the game fun, but you just have to reinterpret what they really want and be able to deliver the content or the changes they seek. We've introduced new content, modes, like events, a lot of collaborations.

Marketing campaigns that will resonate with our community. And I think it's all about consistently delivering value and evolving with other players preferences and by staying attuned to what our players want and continuously enhancing the game, we've managed to keep the experience fresh and engaging and I think this has really contributed to our sustained revenue growth.

Just an example, when I first joined the company in early 2018 players were struggling with the cheats and bugs. And and also we hadn't done any marketing campaigns for PUBG at that point. And we just my team was just like a small team to begin with. It was just three people, including myself back then.

And we did everything. On the business side, and designed a community campaign to closely communicate with the players about our plans in the end. Like pub g and really their pain points and of course like the developers were engineers worked super hard to Improve the game and enhance and minimize any of those issues that the players were addressing and it took us time But over the years like I think we learned to manage it and And the team also designed our very first global marketing campaign to promote SunNote that was the third new map.

And we worked day and night, and, but we were so grateful to for the love and support the players were showing us. And also get the opportunity to make the game better and PUBG is a PvP game with 100 players in a session and it was actually a premium game. It was like 20 to 30 range and it is a lot more fun when there are more players.

Friends and players to play together and also if you meet a friend or an enemy at a similar skill level, right? So as head of strategy, I also work closely with our development team to determine the right timing for transitioning to a free to play model And also the requirements we needed to meet beforehand And these requirements actually included addressing anti cheat And developing a monetization model that could sustain a global state life service.

Anti cheat was like a big concern for us back then because like there is a lot lower hurdle for new players to come in. Before like when you buy a game, you get banned for cheating than like you have to buy again. But then like with the free to play model. A price total is eliminated so that people can just easily get in.

So we did improve a lot on how to detect the real cheaters. And also how to ban them like more so that they don't, they cannot come back like permanently. And I think I'm pretty confident to say that our anti cheat team has been the one of the most effective internal teams for the game company.

And I guess that these initiatives were quite successful and paved the foundation for the game.

Aaron: Yeah, very much so. and since, since that time, pub G has also become a multi product franchise. That's, remains very much like the core of Krafton's business. Now with mobile games, there's pub G mobile in partnership with 10 cent.

And now. Which was originally PUBG branded, which kind of had a different spin and attacking the mobile market. Now, as you mentioned battleground mobile India, which has taken India by storm. And obviously that market has been super volatile with battle Royale over the years. But I'm.

Really curious about this because we've seen many publishers change their approaches to multiproduct strategies and partnerships over time. And I'm curious how you and Krafton have evolved your views on building and maintaining these multiproduct franchises. Any lessons learned so far with pub G when it comes to that perspective.

Maria: Sure. And first of all, we've learned. The importance of maintaining a coherent brand identity, while diversifying our offerings. Each game means to cater to a specific audience while contributing to the overall franchise, and we want to make sure that it makes sense for everybody.

PC, console, mobile gamers have different needs and preferences due to their distinct gameplay environments. While staying true to our core, we found it crucial to understand each platform and optimize the experience accordingly. For instance, And like a mobile user, they tend to play games like while they're on the road.

So we want to make sure that the session is not too long. And also the sound play in pubg PC is super important, but for the mobile player, it's it may not be. So we edit the marks like to help them guide where the, this, the, some of the gunshots are. Like the sound that's coming from etc.

And for console players, we've learned that a lot of them are actually They played in the couch and with the friends and they have this, all this like a lot of music going on in the background and the controller may not be as delicate to, to to the shooting game. They tend to prefer those like SMG type of guns.

So all this different preferences we've learned to tailor to each platform. And that has been the. The big asset for the company over time and from specifically from the new state that was the new mobile game that we built internally in addition to the PUBG mobile that has been in co development with Tencent.

From New Street, we learned that the gameplay experience in a new version must be vastly differentiated and unique like high fidelity alone is not enough to satisfy players but this project was valuable as our internal dev team Like was able to demonstrate that they could create a high quality mobile game in a very resource efficient manner.

But at the end of the day, that was the biggest learn that we learned. And also like collaboration and communication between teams are essential to ensure that consistency and equality across games. The, like we formed a strategic partnerships Our collaboration with the Tencent and that have been instrumental in our mobile success and all this approach has allowed us to leverage external expertise, like while main maintaining our brand's integrity and innovation.

Yeah, I guess like those are some of the biggest lessons that we've learned.

Aaron: Yeah, no, that's all very well said. And naturally, since PUBG was an outsized success, Krafton has also prioritized diversifying the business, not just with, new PUBG games, but also just completely new IPs different genres, thinking about more platforms.

How has the thinking around how to best diversify the business evolved over the past few years? Any notable learnings here so far?

Maria: So leveraging our experiences, the pub cheat and other titles that we developed in the past. We focused on identifying opportunities where we can actually leverage what we learned and scale up the original creative ideas.

Over time we've become more strategic and pinpointing specific niches and trends. That's where we can actually excel based on our skill sets. So we've drawn our expertise in developing multiplayer, like PVP games, of course, multiple platforms and managing long term service life service like worldwide.

And additionally, we've emphasized fostering creativity with our team. Within our studios, like providing them with the resources and support needed to scale successful ideas. So this approach allows us to nurture innovation while ensuring that we can bring these creative concepts to a broader audience effectively.

Being a public company going back to that point in order to to meet the market expectations, we have to show them we're continually continuously growing. And. We don't want to do this by just replicating similar experiences for gamers, but delivering a new experience. And we want to make sure that a diverse like attempts and our efforts do make sense to many players.

But at the same time, being able to make sure that the grow like a bigger and a rich, larger audience. This is our approach to scale up and help them, help the studio to scale up.

Aaron: And it also seems like Krafton has relied on acquisitions to add new studios, working on, many of these types of new wide ranging games on the new platforms.

And, that's been the case for a few years now. What have been some lessons learned here about best making these deals and ensuring that they actually have the impact that was originally desired?

Maria: One critical lesson is like finding the right balance of autonomy and support allowing new studios to maintain their creative freedom while benefiting from Krafton's resources and Sometimes, like a lot of videos with strong indices they might say low health is the biggest health to them, so don't bother, right?

But at the same time There are a lot of things that they can benefit from. So we acquire studios because we respect our creative vision and approach, and we want to ensure that they retain their unique strength and identity. But at the same time we've also observed that many smaller studios tend to feel more comfortable staying in their existing framework and maybe reluctant to scale up.

So it's important to maintain that. That identity and culture of each studio we want to provide a shared vision and the right guidance for growth. This approach ensures that while we support the expansion, like we also preserve the distinct qualities that made them successful in the first place.

But ultimately, we want to we're the company that understands why the players, the gamers, love the game so much, but at the same time addressing the needs of the players and really making it possible to reach a larger audience with, more fun. That's our ultimate goal and we try to create the balance and it's not always easy, but I think we've been learning slowly.

Aaron: Yeah that's good. Yeah, I'm sure it's definitely not easy all the time. Um, shifting gears Krafton's strategic focus has shifted from what was called original creative to now what you call scaled up creative which I think you mentioned earlier on, can you just talk a bit more about this new direction?

What it means and just what it tangibly takes to pull off as one large organization.

Maria: It was funny. I was listening to a show on YouTube. It was the more like a game podcast in Korea and they were like, what's the difference? What does scale up the creative mean? And thanks for the opportunity to explain a little bit better about what we believe they should do.

Our focus on finding unique and innovative gameplay has not changed, so that's what I mean by original. I don't really think that has to be something completely new to the world. Sometimes a combination of different things could be something unique. To the gamers but we do want to deliver a different experience, a fresh experience to the gamers that our focus on the original creative has changed but scaling up the creative at first, means taking proven concepts and expanding them to reach a broader audience.

Our late leadership has been asked to use our imaginations to really bring it to the bigger world. It involves leveraging our capital to invest in talented teams, fund their projects, as well as utilizing our global development and publishing infrastructure to support larger scale initiatives.

It could be as a development partner or Publisher and Dark and Darker Mobile, Thinker Mobile were some of the examples that we actually are, we think that's the the best examples of a scale up the creative cases. Cause we found these we call them jewels. These core ideas are so fun but we want to make it right for the right audience.

Um, these cases are they speak for that the mission that we have, and this shift requires identifying growth opportunities fostering effective cross team collaboration and partnerships, maintaining a strong focus on the efficient allocation of resources, and also precise execution, and by combining creativity with strategic investment and support, it really aims to elevate that.

Successful ideas to a new heights and broaden their impact. So sometimes it could be just the funding, but sometimes it could be the code development efforts. Sometimes it could be a publishing support. So it comes in different forms, but eventually, really, once we discover this core gameplay ideas, that could really be a fun moment for the players. We want to bring it to the next level and make it bigger to reach a larger audience.

Aaron: Got it. And I guess related to some of this, there also appears to be a renewed focus on second party publishing. And obviously many big publishers have also done second party publishing to publish new creative games alongside smaller independent teams.

But what's Krafton's angle here? Who should work with Krafton versus other publishers? And what does Krafton uniquely bring to the table when it comes to second party publishing?

Maria: I guess it's somewhat relevant to what I just said. Like our approach to second party publishing is centered on expanding and nurturing both, unique and innovative gameplay experiences and scaling up.

So we are committed to providing smaller, independent teams with the resources and support they need to realize their creative visions. This allows dev teams to focus on content creation without having to stretch their resources being to build the publishing capabilities. Especially when they're uncertain if the game will make a large enough hit to sustain their own publishing arm.

I think it makes more sense. Or like when it comes to publishing, I think it does make more sense to publish like multiple doings, right? In doing so we focused on long term partnerships and strategic investment. We just don't fund the projects we actively collaborate with the teams to identify growth opportunities advise on monetization.

Teams and also the marketing campaigns, leverage our resources and infra and our CEO, C. H. Kim, he's the one who made PUBG and he's been very active as an advisor to these teams. them regularly have calls and play their Dean and show his advice. That's so like the mentorship is another part.

I guess this means like we offer comprehensive support from development to marketing, ensuring that each project can reach its full potential. So there's no like a tailored Like a one solution that provide we provide to the to every studio, but we customize them based on the studio to and the teams that choose to work with the craft and can expect a partnership that the respect.

Their creative vision offers the guidance and resources needed to scale up their ideas, leveraging our experience and resources, especially like building multiplayer, like live service games across all platforms. I find a lot of Western studios, they want to learn how To a live service for free to play games and like how to run a multiplayer experience.

For instance NoRules is one of our studios that we acquired and they had uh, some uh, uh, which was loved for almost And now a lot of players want the multiplayer experience for the next Fnatic Cup. So we've been working together, so sharing ideas on what really brings best to the players while preserving that core essence of the team.

And this, yeah, this is great. There's a lot of interesting discussion around it and I think we stand apart from others as a global publisher with a very strong developer DNA. As I've mentioned in previously, we have a very developer friendly culture and No, so the respect that we pay to the development teams and studios is just huge.

And and a lot of our invested studios say that, we speak the same language. I think that's a part to question from many others. And. So we think creative, passionate teams are looking for a partner to help them elevate their projects to new heights by combining our strategic investment with the respect for their creative vision we aim to provide that unique environment and and also succeed on a global scale, that's something that we would want for both parties.

Aaron: For sure. Yeah, that's really well said. And obviously thanks to you and your team, Krafton has, been stepping up its game as an investor, scaling its presence across the industry across the world investing in all sorts of different Obviously, as an investor, you want good returns, but beyond the returns, what's the strategic goal of all of this investing for craft and what are, what's the team hoping to unlock from this strategy over the next few years?

Maria: I guess as a strategic investor, our goal may be very different from like VCs or like the private equity firms perhaps in a strategic goal, like in investing is to foster innovation and we want to find great ideas and Of course, like our internal development teams have been working super hard to really make a fun, game, but as I said, we think, the creativity is something that should be discovered.

So that's why we've been actively investing in smaller teams. And we do want to help them reach a broader audience and, sharing the larger successes. So the, make the pie bigger and share the larger fruits. And we aim to continue to innovate while supporting the broader game development community.

And over the next few years, we expect these investments to drive new growth opportunities and enhance our ability to deliver unique and engaging experiences to players worldwide. And also the question is that the I think from our route it's this is the company that lost learning experiences and even working with the smaller studios there are always things that we learn together and we definitely enjoy the the whole process that we've been going through together and by supporting creative and visionary teams, we hope to push those boundaries of what's possible in gaming and bring fresh and exciting content to our audience.

But just we want to do it together with the development studio. I guess like ultimately we do want to deliver fun and a unique game to gamers every time we show to the world that the new games that we unveil.

Aaron: Yeah, I mean it makes sense to, focus on unleashing Innovation and learning as much as you can as an organization from that is part of the strategy too, just to become, the publishing partner to these studios over time, or maybe some of them become like acquisitions or like how does that tie into your investing, if at all?

Maria: I guess both interests meet we would love to have the team as a part of our family. And we definitely adding a strong IP to our portfolio that goes beyond PUBG. That would be a huge plus for for us. But we only do this as the needs meet from each side, like both sides.

You don't push for it or put it in our agreement when we make a minority investment. Rather that's why we form a publishing partnerships together in parallel to the equity investments because we want to put the best resources out there for the, Our second party studio and and put the best resources for publishing.

And I think it does make more sense if you're we we call it sharing a blood. And if you become a part of your family that sort of makes more sense for us to really put our best resources out there to help them grow. So yes If the needs meet, we will definitely be interested in welcoming those studios to our family.

But it's not a must at the end of the day.

Aaron: Yeah, it makes sense. Let's talk about technology for a moment. And two major trends that everyone across the industry seems to be talking about right now. Are UGC and ai. So I just wanna ask maybe one question on each of those. And with UGC maybe big picture, just, I'm curious what Grafton's view on the impact of UGC is.

Maybe on its existing games or as an additional growth avenue with new games. I haven't heard a lot from K Crafton when it comes to UGC yet. So I'm just. Curious to what degree is it being considered? What does the team think about it?

Maria: We definitely view EGC as a significant avenue for enhancing player engagement and extending the life cycle of games by allowing Players to create and share their own content.

We can foster a more active and invested community for sure. And it also helps the development team from falling into a content treadmill for the most time. UGC provides like fresh and diverse experiences. They can keep players coming back and driving sustained engagement. For new games, like I guess the integrating UGC has been really great.

Big creativity, innovation encouraging players to continue contribute to the game with evolution in in unique ways. Even within PUBG, we see players getting super creative and finding new ways to enjoy the game. Absolutely, there was, like, no intention of them to play it in such way, but it was, it's a lot of fun watching them, like, how they make a creative be raised to really play with the objects or the settings that we give them.

And but at the same time, I'd like to note that creating a meaningful virtual cycle in a UDC platform requires time and patience, so it does take a lot of efforts and patience to really get to that point where the players really generate fun content for the players. And for instance we have an interesting project.

It's not our mainstream project that we've started off recently. It's called Over There. It's like a web 3 version of Roblox. So it's sandbox. It's got a Unreal based game editor in it. And we try to experiment. So The create to our own ecosystem. So for the creators, like we incentivize to give the virtual currencies so that they get more heavily incentivized to create things.

But I know that a lot of the creators, like the UTC creators in a community, they don't necessarily Create these things to earn money alone, but it was more about contribution to the community and getting the game and the credit. So we do want to make sure that we understand the sentiment and the psychology of why people really want to create for the community and the promote that the virtual cycle over time. Yes, we are running some interesting projects on it. That and that takes a lot of patients. We wanted to make it start small and and see where we can go uh, uh, evolution.

Aaron: Okay. Yeah, that's interesting. But in general, it sounds like when Krafton thinks about UGC, it's really thinking more about how to embed it in its own games to unleash creativity more so than thinking about building on Roblox or, some other platform out there.

Is that correct? Okay, cool. And then with AI there's Such a wide range of reaction that teams have, you have some teams that, are taking it very slow to, make sure everything is all sorted out legally. Okay. Waiting for other companies to come up with best practices.

And then there's the whole other side of the spectrum where companies are going super hard, trying to figure out how to, Plug AI into as many aspects of the business as possible. I'm curious from Krafton's point of view what is your company's mindset towards using AI across your organization right now?

And if this is something you are deeply thinking about, which which you mentioned, I think it is earlier in the episode, like what are the main. Areas and which, you see the most upside and maybe you can just share a bit more detail on what crafting is actually doing here if you can.

Maria: We're definitely closer to. The move fast end of the spectrum. Because we recognize the potential to revolutionize various aspects of game development, as I briefly mentioned in the beginning. We believe that AI could completely change the way we build a game, making the process more efficient, enabling new gameplay styles and genres.

guys. In a few years, like our deep learning head of deep learning, he expects to see virtual friends embedded in almost every game. And we are actively exploring and implementing AI technologies to enhance game development, optimize player experiences and improve operational efficiency. The largest benefits of AI are expected in areas such as personalized Game experiences advanced analytics streamlined content creation process.

To make this happen, we have built a sizable deep learning division filled with the top tier AI experts coming from all over the world. And we've been actively investing in AI research and also the partnership opportunities with relevant tech companies. And our AI publication portfolio is among the largest ones in Korea.

So we've been very active for over the past few years. Our deep learning team has been working closely with PUBG studios on anti chip initiatives. from the very early days. And they're also collaborating with the Indori team, the light simulation project to enhance personalized interactions with NPCs.

And this integration of AI not only improves the game's security and interactivity, but also, I think it helps deliver a more immersive engaging experiences for our players. We are definitely looking at the different aspects and being very proactive. And I know there's been a concern around like a larger companies whether they are willing to adopt given all the legal controversies around Western regional and respecting copyrights.

I think. The bigger issue is that with abundant resources and a larger company, a lot of developers, engineers, they might not really have the biggest motivation to try a new tool because they already have something that they feel comfortable with. And I think it's true that startups can quickly adapt to and integrate AI due to the smaller scale and more urgent needs and due to the limited resources.

And to address this we've opened a studio called ReLU it's a smaller lingo studio that leverages deep learning technology to create innovative gameplay experiences. So it's a spin off studio fully owned by Crackton, but they, their mission is to learn and apply the deep learning technologies that we're building and doing.

And they've come up with some very interesting games that I don't really think we've we would have got to put it out there as a large company, but as a small team they've been doing a very interesting project And on the other hand, like big publishers like Crafton can leverage our extensive resources and experience to overcome this challenge.

So we try to sort of make the balance between taking the data. Advantage is that the smaller group and also I I wanted to come think of it with a greater resource.

Aaron: Awesome. Yeah. I really liked that approach. I think it's really smart to break out smaller teams inside of big companies that can be like the hubs of moving fast, innovating as quickly as possible, just trying to.

Push boundaries. And then the rest of the company can can learn. Sounds wise. I'm excited to see how that turns out and works for you all. But we're getting close to time. So a couple final questions for you, Maria, as we. Um, First of all I'm just curious what else non Crafton related that you're, that you might be thinking about or excited about in the games industry right now.

Could be a trend, a game, another company. What are you excited about?

Maria: I'm not so sure if it's a completely non related because my role as a head of investment who covers investment is I always put a radar on these creators too. But as a gamer I'm super excited by games like Elite the Company, Nine of Lords, and Powerworlds.

The advancements in game development tools and AI technologies have unlocked incredible creative potential for for these individual developers and small teams. And now with all this, they can create great things with the pure resources. And I strongly believe that this is an era where if you have a great ideas you can really make your dream come true and realize it and reach a much wider audience.

Even with the limited resources. So that's why we pay attention to smaller teams and help them really like, learn learn more, a shorter amount of time and fund them. To bring their great ideas to, to, to the gamer world. And game engines gen AI tools and remote collaboration have definitely leveled that playing field allowing volatility to compete with larger studios, I think and this sort of like democratization of game development and fosters the creativity and innovation.

And I think this will definitely Bring a more unique and engaging games for players to enjoy. I love just even if you don't get a chance to invest in these studios or smaller teams, cause they sometimes want to work alone for years. But I just love watching these teams coming out and playing myself as a gamer.

Aaron: Yeah, that's a lot of fun. I think that's a very good answer. Second, the last question for you. We have many aspiring Corp dev and strategy people in the industry that we'll listen to this episode. I'm curious, Maria, what advice would you give all of these listeners about how to be as valuable and competent as possible?

And these roles, especially as they're looking to grow their impact and have a job like yours one day.

Maria: I think this is a tough role because of a high uncertainty in predicting the success of a game. But also it's very rewarding once you get to the point. And my advice is to never lose the gamer perspective.

And let that sense and passion guide your decisions. We've come across multiple opportunities where missed out because We thought we had it, but like we thought from the very investor or like a sort of we, I call it supplier perspective. Being a developer, , you feel like you know the game, but sometimes you have to make sure that you are thinking from the gamer, the customer perspective.

So we try not to lose that. And we overhaul the whole game review process to really get to that point and also I think staying curious and adaptable it's also important because the gaming industry is not just the content business. It there's a technology around it, and it is constantly evolving and keep learning and stay informed about these changes is super important as a concept.

Thank you for that. And additionally, like many teams, you never know who's gonna really make that the fun game. And and so we, we try to meet as many teams as possible, like when the opportunities come by. And and also when we meet them like we, Really try to identify their needs sincerely try to help them grow and building the strong relationships and the friendships and understanding the unique challenges and opportunities that each team has I, I think that really makes you a valuable and contribute, contributor in this role.

So I would say these three are my advice to anybody who's doing this too.

Aaron: Great. And very last question for you. If anyone wants to connect with you or your team to chat, where should they go? Where's the best place to contact you?

Maria: We go to almost every game show in the world, so feel free to reach out if anyone wants to connect.

They can reach out by our email, it's biz at or connect me with on LinkedIn. And we're always open to engaging with passionate individuals and potential partners who share our vision for the future of gaming, so please Awesome.

Aaron: Let's go ahead and wrap up there. Maria, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing all of your insights. And as always a big thanks to all of our listeners as well for tuning in. We'll catch you all next time.

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