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South Korean Game Makers Coming to U.S.

Reuters reports that South Korea, home to the world's most sophisticated online video games, is preparing an assault on North America, Japan and Europe, setting the stage for an international scrum in an industry poised to nearly triple in value in the coming years.

South Korea is one of the world's most Internet-connected nations with the highest true broadband market penetration globally, and only recently began allowing sales of video game consoles that are so popular in Japan and the West. As a result, all of the country's gaming efforts have gone into online games that offer open-ended stories set in virtual universes that can support tens of thousands of players.

South Korean Internet cafes, known as PC baangs, are the launching pad for online gamers and such a vital part of the social fabric that it is not unusual for youngsters in the throes of puppy love to visit one while on a date. With domestic growth opportunities crimped by a relatively small and saturated market, South Korea's leading game makers, NCsoft Corp. and Webzen Inc., are looking abroad.

Publisher NCsoft is already a contender in wealthy and comparatively red-tape-free Western markets with massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) like "City of Heroes," "City of Villains" and "Guild Wars Factions," but it has yet to have a cross-over hit with a home-grown game.

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