UPDATED 11:26 EDT / DECEMBER 15 2011

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Free-to-Play MMO Publisher Nexon Nets $1.17 Billion From IPO

Today, the Korean free-to-play online gaming company Nexon has gone public in the Tokyo Stock Exchange and raised $1.17 billion from its IPO. According to GamesIndustry, this is the biggest IPO to hit the exchange this year, putting the market value of the MMO publisher between $7.69 billion and $8.97 billion.

“We want to have currency and cash on hand to be able to move aggressively if and when opportunities come up,” said Nexon CFO Owen Mahoney in an interview with Bloomberg. “We like to buy teams and properties early in their life.”

No doubt, this will probably prod social MMO game company Zynga into waving flags to draw attention back to their own IPO–for which they’re supposed to set their price today.

Already the IPO is not looking good for the free-to-play publisher as their sock price fell 3.9 percent in the first day of trading. Analysts believe this fall happened because the Nexon set the public offering at the ceiling of fair market price and as the market fell for the day so did trading.

Not too long ago in November, Nexon suffered a cyber break-in with its game MapleStory and 13.2 million Korean gamers had their personal data exposed by hackers. Fortunately, this event did not dampen the spirits of their IPO much.

With their debut game MapleStory, Nexon forded the strange new waters of the free-to-play market. The 2D side-scrolling universe filled with social aspects, massively multiplayer environments, and a thriving community has propelled them forward to be one of the most recognized names in the free-to-play MMO ecology. Today they have also launched titles such as Dragon Nest, which is gaining popularity among players.

Like most free-to-play MMO pioneers, Nexon uses virtual item shops in order to fuel revenue. Selling virtual trinkets, costumes, and gameplay enhancers to players for between $1 and $20 an item, this freemium model has since been adopted by the majority of free-to-play online game publishers across the market. In fact, this model has treated Nexon to the $1.2 billion IPO they have today.

In its IPO filing, Nexon claimed to have 1.2 billion registered players, of whom 77 million of those were active in September 2011. Eight games generated a lifetime revenue of over $100 million or more, three earned more than $300 million, and one managed to net more than $400 million.

“We can really bring a lot to the table,” Mahoney added.. “We know how to tune a game so that people will play it for months on end.”

Not to mention they’ve done a good job in getting players to purchase the microtransaction-fuel  from their freemium virtual market.

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