The price of winning big here: a sore thumb

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The price of winning big here: a sore thumb

This week is a huge one for online game aficionados. The World Cyber Games is in full swing down in Daejeon, after kicking off Monday with pomp and ceremony.

The online game festival, with the theme "Beyond the Game," is a battleground for 470 top gamers from 45 countries who will be displaying their speed, strategy and skills. One of the organizers, Joo Byeong-wook, said the slogan represented the big ideas they had for the event: "It implies that this is not merely an online game tournament, but a cultural festival."

The competitors are dueling in six game divisions: Starcraft, Age of Empires II, 2002 FIFA World Cup, Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament and Counterstrike. After playing five games in the first round, the computer game wizzes advance to a playoff to see who will compete in the finals, which will be held Sunday. The winners will take home cash prizes from a total purse of $300,000. So far, most of the top performers have been from Korea, Canada, Germany, the United States and Taiwan.

The sponsors anticipated big live audiences, especially middle and high schoolers, but the first couple of days of the tournament had lackluster turnouts. Still, the organizers remain optimistic. "We expect a massive turnout during the weekend, when the finals take place," Mr. Joo said.

One of the contests that attracted a lot of spectators was Tuesday's FIFA World Cup soccer match between Hwang Sang-woo of Korea and Francesco Di Dio of Italy.

Di Dio was the runner-up in the category last year, but Hwang outplayed him and won the game.

Korean fans are also keen to see whether Lim Yo-hwan can defend his title as the world's Starcraft champion. At last year's games, Mr. Lim was unbeatable. But this year, running up to the tournament, other Starcraft players proved that he was mortal indeed, and dealt him a few losses.

Nevertheless, Mr. Lim is the clear favorite to take the title again this year. In the preliminaries, Mr. Lim won four of his five contests, losing only to a Starcraft ace from Peru, and advanced to the playoffs.

This event also features several conferences and exhibitions for the industry. Online game makers such as Microsoft and EA are participating, as well as program developers such as Mike Ryder (the creator of Counterstrike).

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by Choi Jie-ho

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