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Cyber money ruling to bring change

Jan 13,2010
The game industry expects that the cyber money market could experience broad changes following the Supreme Court’s Sunday acquittal of two defendants in a case related to the legality of using cash to trade for cyber money in an online multiplayer role-playing game “Lineage.”

Two game item-trading Web sites - Item Mania and ItemBay - reacted in favor of the ruling on Monday, saying that the judgment made a clear standard of the legality of using cash to buy and sell the cyber money “Aden” in Lineage, which is created by NC Soft.

Game sites also said legal controversies regarding either online cyber money or game item-trading will come to an end following the ruling.

They said the court made the proper judgment that online games and the industry is rapidly developing. Experts say a new position to manage game item-trade could be created.

“There is a possibility that a new profession, a so-called ‘item trader’ who profits by controlling item trading like a stock market trader, could appear,” said Kim Min-kyu, a scholar at the Korea Creative Content Agency. Others also predict that cash could flow into a Chinese cyber money trading market.

Police said China estimated some 1,000 cyber money traders are in business. Chinese game players take shifts 24 hours a day to keep producing cyber money, police said.

“Since the cost of labor in Korea is high, production cost for cyber money is also high,” Kim said. “It is likely that most of the yearly item-trading volume of some 1.5 trillion won [$1.3 million] could enter the Chinese market.”

Specialists believe that the ruling could create a turning point in altering negative views toward trading game items and using cash to buy and sell cyber money. For game providers, a new business model could be established since those providers could engage in trading themselves.

In particular, small and medium providers anticipate getting a chance to grow. Many expect that more legal item-trading markets are likely to be established. However, big game providers say legal authorities need to make clear how they ought to make cash trades transparent.

So far, game providers have maintained their principle that either cyber money or online items are merely part of a computer program, not actual things, and cash trades are impossible since item developers own those items. Civic groups and parents hold negative views of cash trades because they believe games and trades can be harmful. But game players have asserted that players have the right to possess cyber money as well as items and banning the use of cash is same as infringing on consumer rights.

The Busan District Court, an appeals court involved in the case, analyzed the characteristics of Lineage and overturned a July case, saying Aden is not obtained by means of either luck or coincidence, but by effort.

Meanwhile, the number of orders surged by 10 to some 150 an hour on game item-trading sites following the ruling. The price of cyber money also started to skyrocket due to soaring demand.



By Kang Ki-heon, Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]



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