1m fans sign up to 'manage' BTS

Mobile game BTS World, featuring popular K-pop boy band BTS, will be released in 176 countries in 14 languages today.
Mobile game BTS World, featuring popular K-pop boy band BTS, will be released in 176 countries in 14 languages today.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Set for release today, role-playing mobile game BTS World allows players to act as the boy band's manager, guiding the K-pop musicians in their quest for fame

SEOUL •A million fans of K-pop boy band BTS have signed up to have the singers at their fingertips when a mobile game featuring them is released this week, according to reports.

BTS World - set to be released in 176 countries in 14 languages today - is a role-playing mobile game where the user is the band manager, recruiting and training the musicians and guiding the group in their quest for stardom.

Managers and agents are the driving force behind the K-pop industry, exerting extensive control over their stables of stars, rather than musicians forming bands themselves and working to get spotted.

BTS has developed a global following in recent years, becoming the first K-pop group to top charts in the United States and Britain and holding a string of sold-out shows in Los Angeles, Chicago and London's Wembley Stadium.

The floppy-haired musicians, whose ages range from 21 to 26 and who often sport earrings and lipstick, appeal to a generation that feels comfortable with the idea of fluid gender identity.

Their hit single Boy With Luv broke the YouTube record for the most views in 24 hours, with 74.6 million hits, when it was released in April.

BTS World includes exclusive photos and videos of the boy band.

Using another mode within the game, a player can select a BTS member to go back to his childhood and opt for a life away from the stage - perhaps as a strawberry farmer.

The demand for the mobile app has prompted its publisher Netmarble - South Korea's biggest mobile app creator - to plan a new game featuring the septet, which is in its "early stages", a company executive told Agence France-Presse.

Netmarble could not disclose the number of users who have preregistered for the game, the official said, but South Korean reports estimated the figure to be around one million.

The verified Twitter account of BTS World has 1.3 million followers, with each of its 90 posts retweeted hundreds of thousands of times.

"I don't play mobile games, but I can't wait for BTS World," said Ms Jessica Kim, a 33-year-old BTS fan in Vancouver who has travelled twice to Los Angeles to attend the boy band's concerts.

The game is free to download, but users can pay to speed up the process - each time a mission is cleared, a new BTS video or photo is unlocked.

BTS - or Bangtan Sonyeondan, which translates as Bulletproof Boy Scouts - maintain a close relationship with their fans, flooding social media with selfies, videos and tweets in Korean and English.

Their popularity has translated into billions of dollars in profits for their company, Big Hit, which is even collaborating with Barbie doll maker Mattel to manufacture BTS dolls.

South Korean performers such as Psy - whose 2012 hit Gangnam Style became the first video to top one billion views on YouTube - have previously broken into Western markets, but none have achieved BTS' sustained success.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2019, with the headline '1m fans sign up to 'manage' BTS'. Print Edition | Subscribe