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July 25, 2006
Dangers of Online Games
To get the feel of the electronic game craze in South Korea, just check out the country’s SKY Professional League annual e-sports championship. The final for this year's summer league, to be held on July 29 in the port city of Busan, will be broadcast nationwide by two cable TV networks, while more than 100,000 people are expected to witness the PC-based game on the spot – not online. Participating in the league are 280 professional gamers belonging to 11 teams sponsored by such big name companies as Samsung Electronics, SK Telecom and KTF. One star gamer boasts nearly 600,000 registered members in an Internet site created to support him.
Such enthusiasm spawned online game developers in Korea that generated revenues of $1.5 billion last year, including $117.4 million in royalty payments they hauled in from China. The Korean companies’ success also helped fuel the growth of the gaming industry in China, which is expected to overtake Korea next year as Asia's biggest online gaming market, according to research firm IDC.
Yet there’s one big lesson China should learn from Korea’s experience. The popularity of the games also created a serious social problem in Korea: addiction to the virtual world they created. A government survey last year showed an estimated 2.6% of the nation’s 7 million adolescents are at “high risk” of addiction to Internet or PC games, and another 12% face “potential dangers.” These people are so obsessed with online games that they skip school or quit jobs, playing games for hours or days – in some cases until they drop dead. The growth of the gaming industry is a welcoming sign but China will be well advised to brace up for this undesirable side-effect.
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