Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Massive Multiplayer Online Games in Korea

South Korea was the first nation in the world where massive multiplayer online games (MMOG) became wildly popular, and the reason is fairly simple and straightforward.   South Korea built fast nationwide fiber-based broadband networks years before most other countries.  The point has been made over and over in this blog and in my new book with Dr. Oh Myung, Digital Development in Korea:  Building an Information Society (Routledge, 2011).  In the U.S., a 1994 by Vice-President Al Gore in which he argued for the need to build information superhighways, was heeded by South Korea, which implemented an ambitious Korea Information Infrastructure (KII) plan the following year.
The building of South Korea's broadband infrastructure and the spread of PC Bangs (Rooms) were necessary but not sufficient conditions for online games to thrive.  Today I ran across a very interesting post on the Massively blog about the origins of Lineage, a MMOG with which NCSoft struck gold years ago in Korea.  It is well worth reading.  It says in part:

So let's back up the memory truck to September 1998, when a then-fledgling NCsoft rolled out a Diablo-esque isometric MMO and struck virtual gold in South Korea. At the time, gaming rooms were becoming a huge thing in the country; a recession had hit (giving people a lot of time with nothing to do), and the government was rapidly expanding the broadband network. In the face of this perfect storm, titles like StarCraft and Lineage became overnight household fixtures -- and the country hasn't looked back.

What makes this post even more interesting to me is that the offices of our new Asia Center to Advance Educational Exchange are located just down Teheran-ro from the corporate headquarters of NCSoft.  Also, I've just read  the excellent book by Byron Reeves and J. Leighton Read, Total Engagement:  Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete.  I will definitely need to pay them a visit!

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