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Seoul to spend big on game industry

The Korean government plans to spend 180 billion won ($163 million) over the next five years to support game developers who have been facing a double whammy of intensifying competition in the global market and tough regulations, and negative perceptions at home.

The five-year road map for the development of the game industry, unveiled Thursday by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, envisions efforts to bring about a fundamental change to how the public and policymakers perceive online games.

A negative perception of online games is at the center of a vicious circle that has trapped the industry in a skills crunch, a decline in the number of hit products, and slowing growth, the ministry said. 
“Summoners War,” a mobile game developed and published by Korean firm Com2us.
“Summoners War,” a mobile game developed and published by Korean firm Com2us.

“There are many social misconceptions about games, particularly on the side of parents and teachers,” said Yoon Tae-yong, a director at the Culture Ministry, at a news conference.

The ministry plans to roll out what it calls the “game literacy” program in cooperation with related government bodies to help parents and teachers forge a more balanced view of games, he said.

Also included in the road map are plans to support the development of next-generation games and to nurture the e-sports culture encompassing professional gamers, their leagues and fans.

“On top of the 180 billion won to come from the government coffer, we plan to set up an investment fund worth 50 billion won to induce the flow of venture capital into the industry,” Yoon said.

In 2013, the local game industry was estimated to be worth 9.7 trillion won, down 0.3 percent from the previous year. It was the first time since 2009 that the sector registered negative growth. Between 2009 and 2012, it expanded 12 percent a year on average, far exceeding the growth of the overall economy.

Online games took up more than half of the country’s cultural product exports in 2013, with their sales overseas amounting to $2.7 billion.

By Lee Sun-young (