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Korea Can Finally Start Playing Mobile Games

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

In some shocking news last month, Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism scrapped regulations that essentially prevented mobile games from being sold in the country. While iPhones and Android phones are both very popular in Korea, the games sections of the App Store and the Android Market were eerily empty. This was doubly strange since Korea was, and still is, the land where computer gaming has been taken to a whole new level.

The now-defunct rules required all games sold in the nation of South Korea to be rated by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. Since Google and Apple had worldwide marketplaces and did not want to have their users inconvenienced by South Korean bureaucracy, both companies simply decided to block the sales of any games in South Korea. However, now, the lifting of the law clears the way for software developers for the iPhone and handsets that run on Google’s Android system to offer games in the nation. Sales of mobile games will probably exceed 355 billion won ($333 million) next year, according to the government.

Korean mobile-game developers such as Gamevil and Com2uS may also benefit by offering games on Google’s Android Market and Apple’s App Store, said Jang. Gamevil’s third-quarter sales in Korea may rise as much as 17 percent if the companies reopen their game sections on their local stores, he said. The shares have risen 27 percent this year.

The removal of the regulatory hurdle is a “hugely favorable factor” for Gamevil, Kim Young Sik, a spokesman for the company, said. “Millions of iPhone users in Korea haven’t been able to use games until now.” Gamevil’s “Air Penguin” was the fourthmost downloaded paid application for the iPhone in the U.S. in April, according to Utrecht, Netherlands-based researcher Distimo.

Com2uS, a Seoul-based maker of iPhone games such as “Third Blade” and “Homerun Battle 3D,” is aiming to triple smartphonegame sales to 25.9 billion won this year, said Choi Baek Yong, the company’s chief financial officer.

“We’re looking at this very positively,” Choi said.

Country of Gaming

South Korea is a country full of computer gamers. The land is littered with Internet cafes, called PC bangs, which are always full of chain-smoking, motionless, very serious 20- and 30-somethings killing each other online. This is a country that has recently opened game addiction clinics in order to try to break children of the habits of going online and playing computer games. This is also the nation which has not one but two cable channels dedicated to showing live-action plays of Starcraft, the 10-year-old game by Blizzard. The mobile gaming market will not suffer in such a country.

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