Video gaming in South Korea
In South Korea, video games are considered to be a major social activity—locally developed Role-playing games and MMORPG games have proven very popular in the country. Professional competition surrounding video games (especially those involving real-time strategy games) also enjoys a substantial following in South Korea—major tournaments are often broadcast on television, and have large prizes available.
South Korea is well known for the fact that professional gaming has a very substantial following in the country, with the top players earning big money prizes in competitions, and spending several hours practicing every day. Two particularly popular video games for pro-gamers are StarCraft and League of Legends. Well-known players include Lim Yo-Hwan, Choi Yeon-Sung, Park Sung-Joon and Lee Jae-Dong. However, due to problems of widespread video game addiction (for example, a man died in 2005 after a 50 hour long StarCraft session ), the Korean government banned anyone aged under 18 from playing games online between midnight and 8 am.
South Korea's RPG industry began with translations of RPGs imported from Japan and the United States. The first fully translated Japanese RPG in Korea was Phantasy Star (1987) for the Sega Master System, which was licensed by Samsung and released as the Samsung Gam*Boy in South Korea, on April 1989. The country's first fully-fledged computer RPG was Sin'geom-ui Jeonseol, also known as Legend of the Sword, released for the Apple II computer platform in 1987. It was programmed by Nam In-Hwan and distributed by Aproman, and was primarily influenced by the Ultima series. In the late 1980s, the Korean company Topia began producing action role-playing games, one of which was Pungnyu Hyeopgaek for the MS-DOS in 1989. It was the first Korean title published for IBM PC compatibles and is set in ancient China. Another action RPG released by Topia that same year was Mirae Sonyeon Conan, a video game adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki's Japanese 1978 anime series Future Boy Conan, for the MSX2 platform.
1994 saw the release of two major Korean RPGs: Astonishia Story, and an MS-DOS enhanced remake Ys II Special, developed by Mantra. The latter was a mash-up of Nihon Falcom's game Ys II (1988) with the anime Ys II: Castle in the Heavens (1992) along with a large amount of new content, including more secrets than any other version of Ys II. Both games were a success in Korea, Astonishia Story more so.
Commercial online gaming became very popular in South Korea from the mid-1990s. Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds, designed by Jake Song, was commercially released in 1996 and eventually gained over one million subscribers. It was one of the earliest massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Song's next game, Lineage (1998), enjoyed even greater success gaining millions of subscribers in Korea and Taiwan. This helped to secure developer NCsoft's dominance in the global MMORPG market for several years.
In 2002, the sprite-based Ragnarok Online, produced by Korean company Gravity Corp, was released. Though unknown to many Western players, the game took Asia by storm as Lineage had done. The publisher has claimed in excess of 25 million subscribers of the game, although this number is based upon a quantity of registered users (rather than active subscribers). 2002 also saw the release of MapleStory, another sprite-based title, which was completely free-to-play - instead of charging a monthly fee, it generated revenue by selling in-game "enhancements". MapleStory would go on to become a major player in the new market for free-to-play MMORPGs (generating huge numbers of registered accounts across its many versions), if it did not introduce the market by itself.
In October 2003, Lineage II (NCsoft's sequel to Lineage) became the latest MMORPG to achieve huge success across Asia. It received the Presidential Award at the 2003 Korean Game awards, and is now the second most popular MMORPG in the world. As of the first half of 2005 Lineage II counted over 2.25 million subscribers worldwide, with servers in Japan, China, North America, Taiwan, and Europe, once the popularity of the game had surged in the West.
A PC bang (Korean: PC방; literally "PC room") is a type of LAN gaming center, where patrons can play multiplayer computer games for a small hourly fee. The typical cost for an hour of play ranges from 1000 to 1500 won (approximately $0.90 to $1.35 USD.), but as of 2013, 1200 won per hour is the most common cost in PC bang. Although the per capita penetration of computers and broadband internet access is very high in South Korea, PC bangs remain popular as they provide a social meeting place for gamers (especially school-aged gamers) to play together with their peers. Furthermore, the computer hardware used by PC bangs may be more powerful than the systems available in the players' homes. Most PC bangs allow players to eat, drink and smoke (often with separate smoking and non-smoking sections) while they play. It is common for PC bangs to sell ramen noodles, canned coffee, soft drinks, and other snacks.
PC bangs rose to popularity following the release of the PC game StarCraft in 1998. Although PC bangs are used by all ages and genders, they are most popular with male gamers in their teens and twenties.
Many popular Korean multiplayer games provide players with incentives which encourage them to play from a PC bang. For example, the Nexon games Kart Rider and BnB reward players with bonus "Lucci" — the games' virtual currencies — when they log on from a PC bang.
Video games in Korea are rated by the Game Rating Board, a governmental organization established in 2006. Games were previously rated by the Korea Media Rating Board (KMRB), but the separate board was established in 2006 following a scandal where the KMRB was allegedly bribed to allow a video slot machine known as Sea Story be put on the market after operators hacked the game to increase its payouts beyond legal limits.
- History of Eastern role-playing video games
- StarCraft professional competition
- Video games developed in South Korea
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