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'Cooling Off System' and blocking minors from betas, this week in Korean news

'Cooling Off System' and blocking minors from betas, this week in Korean news

February 10, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

[Gamasutra rounds up the week's biggest reports on South Korea's booming online games market from This Is Game, the leading English-language site about the country's game industry.]

In our latest round-up of news from South Korea's online games space, we look at a proposed new bill that would prohibit minors from playing online games for more than four hours a day, or from playing game betas.

MEST proposes "Cooling Off System" bill, game tax

The South Korean government's Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology has proposed a bill for its "Cooling Off System," which is designed to limit how long minors play online games, and to prevent online game addictions.

With the Cooling Off System, children under the age of 18 would be automatically logged off an online game after they've played two hours in a day. They will be able to log back in 10 minutes later, but they can only play a total of four hours in a single day.

Furthermore, the bill seeks to prevent minors from taking part in any closed or public beta tests for games, regardless of the game's rating. Companies failing to enforce these rule could face up to $24,000 in fines and up to three years of jailtime.

MEST is also considering a law that would apply an extra 1 percent tax to games, which will collect money for a private fund that would pay for treating online game addiction, as well as preventing school violence allegedly resulting from exposure to games.

Opponents of the tax argue there is no evidence that violence in games cause school violence. And some in the game industry have criticized MEST's bill for adding yet another regulation for online games to the existing Shutdown and Selective Shutdown laws.

President also planning measures to fight online game addiction

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has voiced his support for MGEF's online game regulations, and declared at a meeting discussing violence in schools last week, "[I am] drawing up a plan to stop game addiction as a part of anti-school violence measures."

And at separate trade meeting in the same week, the President commented, "Games have a [corrupt] side. The game industry needs to try developing games that feature beautiful stories to purify young gamers in terms of social contribution."

Myung-bak also mentioned concerns about random items in games possibly constituting as gambling, that regulations could be put in place if they become a problem. "Operating a casino might attract lots of tourists, but we don't do so because it also destroys families," he said.

NHN to begin Winning Eleven Online beta test soon

Developer and Hangame portal operator NHN will begin beta testing for Winning Eleven Online, a free-to-play online version of popular soccer series Winning Eleven (or Pro Evolution Soccer in the West), in the second quarter of this year.

NHN, which co-developed the title with Konami, intends to follow the private beta with open testing and a launch sometime during the second half of 2012. Both companies previously said they may bring Winning Eleven Online to other countries if the launch is a success.

NHN also intends to begin closed beta testing for first-person shooter Metro Conflict next quarter. The company expects Winning Eleven Online, Metro Conflict, and Bluehole Studio's TERA to drive its sales in the second half of 2012.

[This story was written with permission using material from ThisIsGame Global, the leading English-language site about the South Korean game industry.]

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