Video games make way for manga and anime figures
This was written as part of a look at how popular gaming stores and markets have faded away over the years in Korea. This article was my contribution covering Kukje.
In the second part of our installment looking at hot gaming markets in Korea, I took a trip to another popular hot spot, Kukje Electronics center. Located near Nambu bus terminal, Kukje sits in a big multi-level complex sporting many different electronic goods and wares over several different floors.
After Yongsan, Kukje is the next well-known hot spot when it comes to buying video games (console based) growing in reputation to rival Yongsan in the last few years for the top dog position. However, Kukje has also suffered greatly from the move to digital and online buying of video games.
A few years ago when I first went to Kukje, the majority of the 8th floor was dedicated to console game vendors, sporting many titles from the big 3, as well as many peripherals and components you might need. It also had a healthy selection of retro games and consoles as well. But after my visit today in 2017…boy, things sure have changed.
No longer given a floor to itself, the video games have moved to the 9th floor where they share residence with the quickly growing anime merchandise scene here in Korea. The video game vendors use to take up the majority of the 8th floor, while the anime vendors only occupied a small portion of the 9th floor. Today however, the 9th floor was full with vendors, 2/3 of whom were selling anime figurines.
Also gone are the game stores sporting retro games — most places are only stocking current titles and consoles. Noticeably — with the exception of the official PlayStation store (which was packed) — all the other game vendors were sitting there with nothing to do, no customers or people browsing and some of them even closed.
The anime vendors on the other hand had lots of visitors, and have definitely become the main pull for the area. Most of them sport the latest figures at reasonable prices too. Their selection of course is mostly dominated by One Piece, but you can also find many other shows — both popular and less known, as well as a healthy dose of gaming and movie figures. And of course Gundam and other model kits are well stocked with solid variety.
It is becoming obvious that the shift to mobile games and the ability to buy online is making game vendors obsolete here in SK, and with the steadily growing demand for anime merchandise, I can see more of these vendors closing down and making way for…well, more of the same. It is sad for gamers who like hunting for those retro gems but also a sign of the times. Many of those retro games can be played via ports and emulators on newer technology, and while it’s not the same, it is the way things have evolved.
After my recent trip to Akihabara (in Tokyo), the same situation has played out there as well. While Akihabara was once the electronics capital of Japan and a video game mecca, it has also shown a steady decline in both these fields. The number of stores stocking video games has drastically declined while the number of stores sporting anime goods has grown rapidly. These days, Akihabara is a tourism hot spot for anime fans, with gaming taking more and more of a back-seat.
While it is sad that retro game markets are falling into decline, I am happy that the anime and game figure and merchandise culture has began to expand rapidly, allowing those retro games to live on via figures and other media. Also not all is lost for those wanting to play retro games as the explosion of game cafes has got you covered! (to be explored more in future articles)
Kukje is located near Nambu Bus Terminal subway station, go out exit 3, walk straight and your basically on the doorstep, the massive building to your right. Head up to the 9th floor. It can also be reached easily by bus, Seoul National Arts Museum is close by and is a major bus route.
Marcus Powell has been living and working in South Korea since 2010. Aside from writing for small publications, he is also a popular club DJ, English Teacher, gamer, sports and esports fan and anime enthusiast.