[OUTLOOK]Safeguarding Korean gamers

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[OUTLOOK]Safeguarding Korean gamers

A business based on the Internet is a model that was unimaginable to manufacturing industries of the past. Let’s take a look at a portal site such as Naver, which is immensely convenient and useful to the users. It does not ask for money in return for the benefits. The fee is paid not by the users but by the advertisers. The users are getting free rides.
Online games are similar. When you first start a game, you can use it for free for a few months, sometimes up to a year. At a certain point, the game service provider lets the users choose whether to pay a fee or not. Of course, if you don’t want to pay, you can stop playing. It is just like test-driving a car for a few months. You can buy the car if you like it. If not, you can return it and pick another free model. Therefore, it is hard to understand the online game industry with a manufacturing industry’s concept.
But the new business model of online gaming has the drawback of anonymity and the possibility of hacking. Online businesses deal with a great number of faceless users, who can always use other people’s information to log in if they want to. Moreover, online games can be accessed regardless of the user’s location and can be logged in from any country. While Korean game services block log-ins from abroad, there is no realistic means to prevent connections via a proxy Internet address.
The large-scale use of stolen identities in the game “Lineage” is an example how the online business model is abused. NCsoft, the developer of the game, allows the users to play “Lineage” for free for three days. The users can test the product for three days and choose to pay if they want to continue playing. They can also quit playing if they do not like it. Exploiting the system, Chinese gamers stole the identities of a great number of Koreans and registered them to create the game accounts.
It is NCsoft’s fault that it has not responded to the identity thefts more aggressively. NCsoft’s identity verification system is not much different from those of other game providers and Internet business companies. But when it was aware of the fact that Chinese users were logging in to the game via false identities, it should have made more efforts to resolve the problem, as the leader of the game industry.
Identity theft is not a simple matter that can be settled by self-reflection at NCsoft on its verification procedures. All online game providers, and all online content businesses, cannot be free from the risk of identity theft. Most game developers have relatively small funds and cannot afford to install verification and hacking prevention programs as advanced as those of banks and securities companies. If the verification procedure is too strict, it might discourage some users from registering. The structure of the industry itself is a dilemma for a game developer.
Korean online games have dominated most of the Asian markets, including those in Japan and China. Lately, Korean television dramas and movies have been very popular in the Asian market. But the origin of the Korean wave, or hanryu, is the online games.Since the early 2000’s, Korean online games have swept Asian markets, with “Ragnarok” capturing the hearts of youngsters in Japan and the Asean nations, and “The Legend of Mir” growing wildly popular in China. The Chinese government was so concerned about that game’s popularity that it tried to restrain the advance of Korean games in order to safeguard Chinese culture.
Therefore, the government needs to provide guidelines. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism promotes the game industry and the National Intelligence Service is in charge of preventing hacking from abroad. Using the incident as an opportunity, the government agencies need to seek an appropriate solution by consulting with the game industry. It is not time to denounce the entire game industry. We need to work together and think of a way to nurture online gaming as a new growth engine, while minimizing the vices that are present.

* The writer is a professor of business administration at Chung-Ang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Wi Jeong-hyeon
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