Metaverse Asia Social Game Apps

South Korean social gaming app Zepeto bags $150 million from Softbank after rediscovering metaverse in itself

Zijing Fu

posted on December 2, 2021 6:44 pmEditor : Wang Boyuan

South Korean metaverse platform Zepeto recently received $150 million investment from SoftBank, and $41 million from HYBE, the manager of famous K-pop group BTS, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Launched in 2018, Zepeto is an app by South Korean internet giant Naver's Corp. The app features cartoon-like customizable avatars, letting users create their own Zepeto identity, voice chat, and interact with each other. According to Naver, the metaverse social app currently has 2 million daily active users worldwide, with China and Indonesia being the biggest markets.

Briefly after the app's initial launch, it quickly surged to the top of daily downloads ranking on both Apple and Android app stores in China, according to App Annie. For most, Zepeto's appeal lies in its novelty, yet for Chinese users, Zepeto's resemblance to Tencent's Qzone gives it additional nostalgia value.

According to Naver, 70% of Zepeto's users are young females aged 13 to 24. To specifically cater to users' needs, Zepeto has introduced virtual fashion to its platform. There are currently 1.5 billion virtual fashion items, including clothing, makeup, and accessories, for sale on Zepeto, including works by luxury brands such as Gucci, Dior, and Ralph Lauren. Zepeto also features selected clothing by popular celebrities such as BlackPink, SOMI, Sunmi, and Selena Gomez. Fans can dress up as their favorite singer or actress, or even meet their idols, as Zepeto has held fan meetings within the platform.

For aspiring fashionistas, Zepeto can also be a source of income. As the dress-up function within the app became popular, users have been able to design and sell virtual clothing for real-world money. It is possible to earn thousands of dollars per month by selling clothing designs on Zepeto, according to WSJ's interview with Zepeto user ZDE.

"We're probably the world's largest virtual fashion marketplace," according to WSJ, citing Rudy Lee, the chief strategy officer at Naver Corp. 

Users can customize their looks from hair to toe, and take "selfies" to seize the moment.
Users can customize their looks from hair to toe, and take "selfies" to seize the moment.

Zepeto is encouraging the thriving ecosystem evolving around fashion. Last month, Zepeto partnered with fashion school Istituto Marangoni Miami (IMM), offering a $50,000 scholarship program, with hopes that it will attract students to devote themselves to virtual fashion. 

Zepeto's ambition did not stop at building a small-scale, niche social app. Last month, it hosted a ceremony for the late South Korean national hero Kim Gu in its app, according to a report by the Korea Herald. In addition to creating a Kim Gu avatar, Zepeto also replicated his residence in collaboration with the Seoul Museum of History, for Zepeto users to tour.

To keep up with the recent NFT hype and further strengthen its brand image as a virtual platform, Zepeto collaborated with Japan's social networking app LINE to launch a series of non-fungible tokens last week, featuring Zepeto's popular virtual site Cherry Garden World.

As tech companies worldwide have painted a picture of a limitless virtual digital world that is the metaverse, Zepeto isn't the first metaverse related company that SoftBank gave its vote of confidence to. In early November, SoftBank led a $93million investment round for Sandbox, an online game platform based in Hong Kong. In September, SoftBank led a $680 million financing round for Paris-based online soccer game maker, Sorare

"We believe that the metaverse has the potential to be the next evolution of the internet," said Greg Moon, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, the technology group's London-based subsidiary that manages SoftBank's Vision Fund 2.