JoongAng Daily. May 21, 2004
By Wohn Dong-hee
Online game players are threatening to file a class action suit against NC Soft, Korea’s largest Internet game developer and publisher. They claim the fees to play the game Lineage are too high and that the company has been negligent in attending to various technical and ethical problems involving the game.
The Online Consumers League, an Internet-based civic group, sent a statement, signed by 1,060 members, to NC Soft yesterday, notifying the company that it would file the suit.
The league claims that the game is too expensive. It noted that the monthly fee of 30,000 won ($25.40) was almost double the rate in some other countries. Monthly rates are $15 in the United States, 2,000 yen ($17.60) in Japan, and $480 NT ($14) in Taiwan. “Korean game players are being discriminated against,” they said.
The league also said that the game’s server crashed too often, and that there was significant fraud or hacking of the game, yet the company has not taken action to improve conditions. They said that they would file the suit if the company did not act by May 28.
Recently, users have informally asked many other online game developers to lower their charges as well.
In this year’s first quarter, NC Soft reported sales of 60.9 billion won and operating profits of 31.7 billion won. “It is difficult to make a comparison with other countries because the market itself is different,” said Kim Ju-young, the company’s public relations director. “Also, compared to other modes of entertainment here in Korea, the charges are still very low.”
Another problem that users pointed out was the cash trading of game items offline. Within the game, there are many different “items” such as weapons, clothing or potions, that have different levels of power. Acquiring more powerful items can take hours of playing time. The ability to acquire more powerful items also depends on the level of skill of the player. Therefore, for players unable or unwilling to devote the necessary time, buying and selling items for cash has become a widespread trend.
“Offline or online trading of items has nothing to do with the company,” a company official said. “If it is illegal, then the government should make a law forbidding cash trade of online items,” the official added.
Many users, however, disagree. “The basic structure of online games is that if one has good items and equipment, then he or she can win,” one game player said.
Since the game was launched in 1999, 520 million accounts have been opened in Korea alone. That figure can include multiple accounts for an individual subscriber.