With the booming popularity of Korean games in western culture, the G-Star convention in Busan, South Korea is quickly turning into an international event. We had an opportunity to attend the four-day convention to see the latest and greatest from Korean online gaming.

Follow along after the jump as I describe my experiences on the first day of the convention, as well as take a look at what else you can expect as we go into days two, three and four.
At first glance, G-Star is no different from E3. Sure, it's a much smaller venue than the Los Angeles Convention Center, but the extravagance of the booths, the booming music and the rush of people are very much the same.

This year's G-Star is proving to be the largest so far, with a more expansive international presence as well as an astounding global recognition for the major Korean game companies, such as Nexon, NCsoft, Hangame (NHN) and XLGames.

There's no doubt that these are the big ones, by any standard. With folks like Jake Song and Kim Jung-Ju as household names in Korea and NCsoft's practically being royalty, it's no wonder this event is such a big deal.

Now, there's something your average Western MMO fan needs to realize here. Korean online gaming is not a hobby for geeks and the socially inept, as it may be in other cultures. It's a national epidemic practiced by a solid percentage of the population. Not only that, but the games most Westerners may scoff at are behemoths in Korea. While visiting a few local PC bangs (LAN Cafes in Korea), Aion and Lineage II were consistently the most popular among young gamers.

So we were excited to take part in this scene at the Bexco Convention Center this week. Walking among the booths, it's easy to notice the stand-outs and what to keep our eyes on as we creep into the crucial next year of online games.


NCsoft

Showcasing what could be considered the mostly highly anticipated MMO of the show with Blade & Soul (first shown to the public at last year's G-Star), NCsoft boasts fame and a dedicated Korean fanbase that make it a hot spot for attendees. The line wrapped around the booth for fans to get a chance to see Blade & Soul in action, and there was some solid interest in the old favorite, Lineage II. We were able to sneak in some hands-on time ourselves with Blade & Soul, which you can look for very soon on the site.


Nexon

With the popularity of Mabinogi Heroes (Vindictus in North America), Nexon's booth was out-of-control wild. A pleasantly open layout allowed a significant crowd to watch the company's stage activities as well as get some hands-on time with its growing catalogue of upcoming titles.


Hangame

TERA and Kingdom Under Fire II are the megahits here. While you might be familiar with En Masse Entertainment when it comes to TERA in the States, veteran publisher Hangame is handling everything in Korea. It might be a close call with Nexon and NCsoft, but the Hangame booth is probably the largest of the convention.

XLGames


Jake Song (creator of Lineage) has kept Korean gamers curious about what his next studio project has to offer, which makes us all excited about ArcheAge. The studio's booth -- ironically placed next to Song's first employer in the biz, Nexon -- wasn't short on the flashiness or fan interest. It still has a way to go to convince fans that it's more than just a game featuring Jake Song's name, but it seems promising so far.


Blizzard

While World of Warcraft is the game you probably most associate with Blizzard, in Korea, it's all about Starcraft and Starcraft II. The Blizzard booth housed a stage with live performances and a back room with ongoing LAN tournaments, proving the studio's global popularity.

How does all of this all translate to western interest?

We've already seen the excitement over Vindictus and the upcoming TERA, but with others like ArcheAge, Kingdom Under Fire II and Blade & Soul, we're sure to see this trend of Korean MMOs growing by leaps and bounds in the coming years. Yes, even with such blockbusters as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 on the horizon.

Be sure to check out our show floor gallery below for more G-Star 2010, and look for first impressions of Blade & Soul and more, coming soon on Massively.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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