* KartRider Rush+ downloads topped 10 mln in first two weeks
* Nexon plans to spend $1.5 bln on global entertainment firms
* Shares up 63% this year (Adds $1.5 bln investment plan, updates shares)
By Sam Nussey
TOKYO, June 2 (Reuters) - Nexon Co Ltd’s shares hit a record high on Tuesday following the strong start for a mobile version of its hit karting franchise, as the gaming company looks to mobile for new audiences for its top titles.
KartRider Rush+ was downloaded more than 10 million times in its first two weeks. It met with positive reviews, which drew contrast with the early lack of a multi-player option that has hampered the performance of Nintendo Co Ltd’s Mario Kart Tour.
Shares in Tokyo-listed Nexon, founded by South Korea billionaire Jungju Kim who retains the largest stake, closed up 1.25% on Tuesday, extending this year’s rise to 63%.
The gains come as Nexon last month reported an 80% jump in first-quarter revenue in South Korea with titles such as long-running online roleplaying game MapleStory benefiting from consumers staying home due to the coronavirus outbreak.
While the virus is boosting gaming demand, that result was offset by a fall in revenue in Nexon’s other largest market, China, which it attributed to the temporary closure of PC cafes.
Nexon’s titles have a huge following in its top two markets. KartRider on the PC has 380 million registered users, and the company has estimated more than half of Koreans have played it.
The firm is a pioneer of in-game purchases that have become a major earner for cross-platform hits such as Fortnite from Epic Games.
Nexon held 518 billion yen ($4.8 billion) in cash at March-end. It plans to spend $1.5 billion on minority stakes in listed companies with “leading entertainment portfolios”, Chief Executive Owen Mahoney said in a statement on Tuesday.
Nexon is developing a mobile version of its hit title Dungeon&Fighter, partnering with China’s biggest gaming company, Tencent Holdings Ltd. The game has been pushed back to the summer due to “fine tuning”. ($1 = 107.7500 yen) (Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Christopher Cushing)