Wired's Game | Life is reporting that the South Korean Customs Service has taken down a criminal piracy ring comprised of 25 suspects. They are accused of allegedly selling over 90,000 illegally copied games and copying devices for the Nintendo DS worth over 100 billion won ($87 million). The South Korean agency turned over information on the suspects to prosecutors on Monday, according to the Korea Herald.
South Korea's new "Shutdown Law" was supposed to keep teens from gaming during a six hour block every night to focus on "more important things" like studying, but two groups have already filed lawsuits that question the legality of the new nanny state law concocted by lawmakers in the country. A group of game makers doing business in the region including NCsoft, Neowiz, and Nexon, have filed a lawsuit claiming that the Shutdown Law is unjust and unfair to them.
Blizzard revealed that it would give full refunds to South Korean gamers who suffered from various connection errors during Diablo III's launch - most notably the dreaded "error 37" message. The decision to give full refunds follows a series of complaints by South Korean gamers to the government, which ultimately led to an investigation into Blizzard's Seoul office last month.
The PlayStation Store for South Korea will be shut down temporarily, according to a report on Kotaku. The digital marketplace for the PSP, PS3, and PS Vita will be shut down due to a new "Shutdown Law" in the country that is meant to keep gamers in the region age 16 or younger from playing games during a six hour block of time every night. The law was already imposed on the PlayStation Network.
According to the Korea Times, South Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) announced plans to ban the trade and sale of commercial in-game items in order to keep teens from wasting time. This ban will be across the board and will affect everything from free-to-play MMO titles to mobile games. Basically any game where you can buy virtual items will no longer be able to operate effectively in the region.
A few months ago rumors were flying that Japanese MMO company Nexon was going to buy a gigantic company like Electronic Arts. Today we see a more realistic investment from the company responsible for Maple Story and other free-to-play games in the U.S. Nexon has bought a 14.7 percent stake in South Korean MMO maker NCsoft. Nexon purchased 3,218,091 shares from NCsoft CEO Taek Jin Kim for ₩804,522,750,000 (approximately $686.8 million USD).
According to South Korean newspaper Korea JoongAng Daily, a South Korean man has been arrested for his part in proliferating online game software that contained malware, turning the computers it was installed on into zombie machines th
Bust out your padded headwear, dear readers because this story will make you facepalm.
According to Kotaku, South Korea’s Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation ran a news story attempting to demonstrate that violent video games do indeed make players violent. How did it do this? Simple. It went to a net café where customers pay to use the internet and shut off all the computers. Observing the profanity-laced reaction of the establishment’s patrons, the report noted:
"They've been transformed into the violent characters they are playing."
The segment reportedly vexed many a viewer who pointed out that anyone would be upset if the service they were paying for was suddenly cut off and the show should apologize to the café’s customers and refund their money.
A 19 year old South Korean boy died after playing a game for more than 12 hours, according to a Daily News report (citing a Korean Times report). According to the report, a young man identified only by the surname "Moon" arrived at "PC Bang," an Internet cafe in the city of Ulsan, at around 2 a.m. on Dec. 27. He spent eight hours playing an "online action game" then went home to have a meal. Moon returned to PC Bang at 10:30 a.m. and resumed playing the game. At around 12:00 he collapsed and was rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors were unable to save him.
South Korean psychiatrists claim that they have successfully treated game addiction with an antidepressant drug called Bupropion. The study was conducted by psychiatrist from the Department of Psychiatry at Chung Ang University - College of Medicine, used 11 participants that were "diagnosed" as having "Internet Game Addiction" because they played "StarCraft for 4 or more hours a day." Six of the eleven participants had skipped school for two months, while two of the participants had been divorced due to their addiction to StarCraft.
The entire group was treated with the antidepressant for six weeks. After the trial period, researchers say that their group’s cravings to play StarCraft apparently decreased by 23.6 percent and total playing time decreased by 35.5 percent. Researchers also conducted MRI scans on all of the subjects and discovered that their brains responded "less strongly" to pictures of Zerglings after taking the drug.
If you're a World of Warcraft subscriber you will get StarCraft II for free.. if you live in South Korea. Blizzard's promising RTS sequel is the greatest thing since sliced bread in the region, so the company has decided that WOW faithful deserve a reward. According to an IGN report Blizzard announced the news at a recent StarCraft II event in Seoul, South Korea to the delight of fans. The deal allegedly lasts as long as a player’s World of Warcraft account is active.
Lead producer Chris Sigaty said during the event that the move was "a way of giving something back to such a supportive and skilled community of players."
While this is a kind gesture on Blizzard's part, it is also a very clever way of further driving subscriptions for World of Warcraft. It would be fair to say that the StarCraft franchise enjoys ridiculous levels of popularity in the region, with shows dedicated to the game, multi-million dollar competitions televised on TV and Internet Cafes in the country driven by consumers who want to play.
In late April Blizzard announced that it had given up on trying to negotiate with the Korean eSports Association. The three year disagreement with KeSPA was about broadcasting rights for various Blizzard game-related tournaments. KeSPA claimed that Blizzard's demands were too great, while Blizzard felt that their IP rights were not being respected. After months of negotiations Blizzard pulled out and was prepared to join forces with GOMtv.
This week Blizzard officially announced its partnership with Gretech-GomTV. The agreement gives GomTV the exclusive rights to operate and broadcast tournaments for all Blizzard games in Korea. It also means that organizations currently running Blizzard game-related leagues (and broadcasting league events) are on their way out. This includes leagues run by OnGameNet, MBCGame and KeSPA. Blizzard is allowing these leagues to operate until August - the end of this pro-league season. Word on the street is that Blizzard will allow its new partner to negotiate deals with OGN and MBCGame.
In a bid to combat its estimated 2.0 million Internet and videogame addicts, South Korea will offer free software to the populace that would limit time spent online.
Under what’s termed a “consensual shut-down program,” users would be able to set the days and times that they would be able to access the Internet, reports the Korean Times. A second method of limiting screen time would involve a program dubbed Internet Fatigue, which is designed to “make gamers become bored as time goes by.”
The measures were issued by a special inter-ministry group setup to fight the overuse of the Web and games. The government is said to be focused on preventive actions and will launch educational programs expected to reach 10.0 million people, while 300,000 heavy Internet users will be able to receive counseling services. 10,000 jobs will be created as a result of the latter initiative.
The South Korean parents of a three-month old allegedly fed their gaming habits obsessively while neglecting their daughter, who effectively starved to death.
The 41-yeard old husband and his 25-year old wife, identified only as “the Kims,” spent up to 12 hours every night at Internet cafés playing games, according to a story on ABC. The couple came home one morning last September, after spending the whole night out, and alerted authorities upon finding their daughter deceased.
An autopsy revealed that the baby’s death came about from malnourishment. The Kims subsequently confessed that they had been feeding their daughter “rotten, powdered milk and had often spanked their crying baby.”
In a sinister bit of irony, officials reported that instead of taking care of their real child, who was born prematurely, the couple was infatuated with raising a virtual daughter in the massively multiplayer online game PRIUS.
The article also features a quote from Dr. Kim Sang Eun, of Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, who believes game addiction is a brain disease. She stated, “there's no certain clinical indicator to define 'game addiction' but our study shows that brain PET [scan] images of suspected online game addicts are very similar to that of a cocaine addict.”
The parents were arrested on Wednesday.
There is a bizarre report from Korea today about a man who authorities say launched a denial of service attack on the nation's game content ratings board.
According to JoongAng Daily, the man, identified only as Choi, age 39, is the CEO of a company that helps game developers with the content rating process. Choi reportedly accepted an advance payment from an unnamed game developer who then complained when the rating process did not progress quickly enough.
Police say that, in order to generate an excuse for the rating delay, Choi purchased a hacking program and launched attacks on the game rating board:
[Choi] made postings on Internet bulletins... saying “MP3 files can be downloaded for free” with a link to a separate Web site. If people clicked on the site, they were directed to a pornographic video. While watching the video, the hacking program Choi had bought from China infected the watchers’ computers with a virus. These so-called zombies computers were then used for a distributed denial-of-service attack...
Choi managed to freeze the Game Rating Board 10 times between March 4 and 22, mobilizing some 7,400 hijacked computers...
Rather surprisingly, South Korea's intelligence service is operating an online game designed to raise public awareness of infiltrators from the North.
The AFP reports that the National Intelligence Service will run the game through July 21st. The timing concides with the 59th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. A variety of prizes are being offered, including laptops, camers and video game consoles. From the AFP:
The first stage invites users to identify suspicious characters in a crowded park. One figure is shown holding a placard reading "Love Kim Il-Sung," the North's founding president who died in 1994.
The game urges players to look out for people who leave Internet cafes quickly after posting "impure" articles, or protesters who spread groundless rumours or incite violence at anti-US and anti-government rallies.
Other suspects include those who photograph sensitive military and industrial facilities, people who cover their mouth with their hand when they talk, and those who bring sticks to street demonstrations.
The game, however, has provoked ridicule among some Korean bloggers:
I never met a spy before as far as I know, but I don't think they will be waving 'I love Kim Il-Sung' signs or carrying walkie-talkies and pro-North Korean documents and books in public parks.
The National Institute on Media and the Family, which seems to have adopted video game addiction as its primary game-related issue of late, recently used its Twitter account to point to a Frontline video report on gaming in South Koria.
Part of the report examines the struggle of an adolescent boy to balance his game play with the other facets of his life and looks at the government-run anti-game addiction camp he attends.
Click here for the video.
The Korean government will invest 80 billion won (US$63.52 million) to support the country's growing serious games business, reports Korea IT Times.
If successful, Korea will expand its serious games market by a factor of six by 2012. Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yu In-chon commented:
The functional game market is at an early stage, but the market is an emerging blue ocean. The government is going to give support to prompt private investment in that field.
Mervyn Levin of the U.K.'s Serious Games Institute reports on a 2008 visit to Seoul where he observed some of the Korean serious game projects in development:
An interesting Korean Serious Games project was presented by T3 Entertainment on anti-bullying, a subject of obvious relevance to the UK. The title was "Online 'Star Stone' Development for Improvement of Personal Relations".
South Korean University research was also presented demonstrating evidence of the relationship between on-line games and the development of leadership skills in the workplace...
In what could be viewed as a real-world version of a business tycoon game, the video game foreign trade wars appear to be heating up.
Earlier this month came word that Nintendo was jacking up the price of the Wii in the U.K. due to the weakness of the British pound vis-a-vis the yen.
Last week GamePolitics cited a report that China was using protectionist tactics by blocking entry of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft in order to promote home-grown MMORPGs.
Now, via Kotaku, comes word that Sony has stopped shipping PlayStation 3s to South Korea.
Thanks to the depreciation of South Korea's won versus the stronger yen, it seems that Japanese tourists have been picking up PS3s on the cheap and toting them home from Korean trips. A Sony employee told Chosun Online:
We are troubled by 'reverse-importing', which is when products exported into South Korea are flown back into Japan," said a Sony employee.
Nintendo has pointed the piracy finger at several nations in a press release issued today.
China, Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Spain and Paraguay all come in for a mention as countries where "piracy is rampant," according to Nintendo.
The maker of the Wii and DS systems also appealed to the U.S. Trade Representative to help combat piracy, especially the type accomplished through circumvention devices such as game copiers and mod chips.
Interestingly, Canada, which was recently singled out by the ESA over its relaxed posture toward mod chips, does not come in for a mention by Nintendo.
Here are some snippets of Nintendo's concerns about the offending nations:
China continues to be the hub of production for counterfeit Nintendo video game products. The number of online shopping sites in China selling infringing Nintendo products is increasing... Internet piracy in Korea continues to increase, as does the availability of devices that get around product security and allow for the play of illegal Nintendo software...
Federal anti-piracy actions are not reducing piracy in Brazil, and local enforcement efforts are weak. Efforts to prosecute for piracy are virtually nonexistent. Customs and border control agents failed to seize a single shipment of Nintendo video game products in Brazil in 2008...
Anti-piracy actions by the Mexican government in 2008 were wholly inadequate... The availability of game-copying devices in Spain is alarming. Internet sites offering game-copying devices and illegal Nintendo software are widespread... Corruption continues to hamper anti-piracy efforts [in Paraguay]...
Lee Myung-bak (left), President of South Korea, wonders why his nation can't build video game hardware to compete with Nintendo. During a visit to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy this week, Lee said:
A lot of our elementary school children have Nintendo game machines. Why can't our companies develop products like that?
The lack of [game] content is evident, as we don't have many companies here with the personnel and financial capability to develop games, and the open-source model is our best bet for the short term.
It would be great if the software industry here was healthy enough to produce a lot of games, which would drive up the sales of handheld consoles and introduce more products onto the market. However, as a latecomer, we have the difficulty of proving our products first and securing third parties later.
An unnamed mobile games developer added:
Talking about Nintendo is out of touch, when you consider that the local software market is virtually on life-support. Piracy and lack of quality personnel has killed the vibrancy of the Korean software market, and I wonder whether the government has ever been serious about fostering the country's software industry. It's telling that most of the computers at government agencies rely on pirated software.
Another exec also slammed Lee's government:
You don't have the right to be daydreaming about Nintendo, when Korean online game firms, which are actually doing well overseas, feel they could do better if the government wasn't biting at their ankles.
A South Korean academic's campaign to encourage friendly online communications has spread to China.
Writing for China Daily, Professor Min Byoung-chul of Korea's Chung Ang University describes some of the issues which led him to create the Sunfull Movement in May of 2007. Sunfull translates to "good replies."
Min ranks violent video games among the causes of negative online behavior and asserts that adolescents who have been exposed to violence are the "main culprits of negative comments":
With one of the world's lowest birth rates, there are more one child families in S.Korea than before, and children are becoming incapable of communicating with others.
The development of the gaming industry has created an addiction for these lonely children. Most games focus on stimulating plots like violence and murder rather than on educational methods for their humanity. Therefore, teenage gamers became familiar with instant killing in these games. Some of them confuse the real world with violent games and this confusion leads to replicating violent actions and criminal behavior in the real world.
In this regard, adolescents who have accessed obscenity and violence on the web easily become offensive and thoughtless rather than considerate to the people they encounter in the Internet. They are the main culprits of negative comments.
This phenomenon is in line with the rise of virtual violence, which includes mobile phone bullying and strange murders without motives.