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Games industry to benefit from deregulation

But industry officials complain that multiple issues still have to be dealt with


Attention is focusing on what impact the revised bill to open up the game market will have on the local gaming industry.

The parliamentary legislation committee passed a revised bill on game industry promotions Wednesday, following a two-year delay.

According to the revision, games that are designed to be released in an open market or an open platform do not need prior authorization from state officials.

This is a significant change considering that all games, including mobile games, were subject to review under the current law which took effect about two years ago.

As a result, Korean smartphone owners were banned from accessing mobile games posted openly on global platforms such as Google’s Android market and Apple’s AppStore.

Industry insiders claimed the strict law prevented local game developers from expanding their businesses by entering overseas markets. It prompted them to ask the government to relax the related legislation and policies.

In a bid to meet such complaints, the open market bill was put in motion in November 2008, however, it took up to two full years to get it passed during a parliamentary committee session.

The bill will now be put to a vote during a plenary meeting at the National Assembly this month.

“I believe it will support the industry in triggering a boom because the game developers were unable to launch mobile application games for the bill was moored for so long,” said an official at Nexon, the country’s top game company.

Korea’s mobile game developers would be capable of engaging in free competition with the passing of the bill, however, there are still obstacles that need to be tackled for better support.

Sources say it is too early to be excited since the passing of the shut down system ― which prevents teenagers from accessing online games late at night ― included in the youth protection law has been put on hold.

“We could say that only one-half of the legislation has been passed at this point since the decision involving the shut down system has been deferred again,” said an official at Gamevil, a popular mobile game developing company.

“Even if the market opens up, we will be in the same situation if the shut down system is put into practice.”

He also said there is a high possibility that global mobile platform operators like Google and Apple are unlikely to participate in the open market here with the implementation of such system.

“It’s still a mystery if the government has to go that far in industry regulations. I believe we will have to further watch what happens to the youth protection law.”

The boundaries of open market-targeted games, which are subject to be free from review, are also among the remaining controversial issues.

Many industry experts, game developers and government officials currently consider Smartphone games to fall in the free-from-review category. However, there are many others, such as social games like well-known social networking site Facebook games, which could be debated by game developers to be included in the category.

“Instead of responding to the passing of the open market bill, the time has come to fully review the law on gaming according to the global trend,” said an industry source.

By Cho Ji-hyun and Shin Hyon-hee
(sharon@heraldcorp.com)   (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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