Friday, December 10, 2010

The Dilemma for Korea's Online Game Industry

The Korea Times earlier this week carried an excellent article describing the dilemma posed by its online game industry. The nation's policymakers recently decided to limit the amount of time that Korean youngsters can spend playing their favorite online games. The new online gaming curbs prevent gamers under the age of 16 from playing between midnight and 6 a.m. to combat addiction.   The age and the time period were the result of a compromise between the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which had advocated imposing the limits on gamers age 14 and under, and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, which had proposed restrictions for all gamers under the age of 19.  Eventually, the Blue House had to step in to referee the conflict between the ministries.
The dilemma is clear.  Stronger restrictions on online games also restricts the growth of the industry, while a lax approach which encourages industry growth may contribute to more internet addiction.  The dilemma is being exacerbated by the mobile broadband revolution.  The country’s existing rules require all game content to be screened by government reviewers before reaching customers, and critics have been questioning whether such rules are relevant in an era when more games are played online than through CDs or game cartridges. Apple and Google have been forced to prevent its Korean customers from accessing the game categories on their content platform, as Korean censorship officials have no prayer of reviewing and approving the flood of games released by Apple’s massive network of developers every day. This has also prevented Korean games developers from marketing their products to local customers. As noted by an official of one local gaming firm, "The Internet has no boundaries, and the new regulations have no grasp of the reality. Young users can easily log-in to a foreign online game service after we stop providing them after midnight."

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