South Korea’s PC cafe owners have accused Blizzard Entertainment of breaching the local antitrust law by introducing a new fee system for “Starcraft: Remastered,” a high-definition remake of the firm’s smash-hit PC strategy game “Starcraft.”
The Internet PC Culture Association, which represents local internet PC cafes where people play online games, also known as “PC bangs” here, said Monday that it had petitioned the Korea Fair Trade Commission to investigate Blizzard for unfairly charging them for the new game.
“Starcraft: Remastered” is an upgraded version of the former “Starcraft” game fitted with upgraded graphics and an improved soundtrack. The game was prelaunched at selected PC bangs in Korea on July 30, weeks ahead of its official worldwide release slated for Tuesday.
The Korean PC bang association has taken issue with Blizzard’s new policy to charge PC cafes between 203 and 233 won (20 cents) per hour for offering the new Starcraft game to visiting players.
In the case of the original “Starcraft,” Korean PC bangs purchased the game package one-off and were not required to pay any additional fees.
Blizzard has decided to collect time-based fees for the new version of “Starcraft,” on the grounds that it offers an array of in-game perks and benefits to those who choose to play the game at local PC bangs, according to the company.
The Internet PC Culture Association claims that “Starcraft: Remastered” is no different from the game’s original version, except that its graphics are upgraded, and that it is unjustified for Blizzard to start charging new fees for a game that is essentially the same.
The association also asserted that PC bangs are left with no choice but to install the upgraded version of the game due to system stability issues with the old version.
“Blizzard Entertainment is misappropriating its superior market status to push unfair measures to PC bangs owners, most of which are small-sized business owners,” the association said.
A Blizzard Korea official said that the company views “Starcraft: Remastered” as a new game with different elements from the old version. The new game offers attractive perks such as extra experience points to PC bang players, unlike the old version.
“With its exclusive offerings, ‘Starcraft: Remastered’ helps attract more players to PC bangs, therefore benefiting PC bang owners as well as legitimizing the fees that Blizzard can collect from them,” a Blizzard Korea official told The Korea Herald.
The petition was filed with the FTC on Sunday. The antitrust watchdog had begun reviewing the case as of Monday and has yet to publicize additional information.
By Sohn Ji-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)