[Game piracy may be somewhat stymied in the West, but in this case study, Seoul-based writer Rumas looks at the Nintendo DS piracy problem in Korea, discussing the cultural and practical problems of game copying.]
Korea has long had the
reputation of being an epicenter of piracy in the games industry, but the
greater-than-expected domestic success of Nintendo's DS has thrust things
further out into the open than ever before. While no reliable figures exist at
this point in time, all it takes is a pair of eyes to see just how widespread
the practice is.
The recent report claiming ninety-percent R4 (or other DS storage device) ownership among DS users in North America was proven to be a misattribution, of course, but the statement would be more applicable - if still not completely true - in Korea. Over here, piracy is nothing if not absolutely and completely normal.
Not Limited to the Hardcore
To get an idea of what things are
like, consider some random personal experiences I've had in the last few weeks.
Anecdotal, to be sure, but very much representative of the situation that
exists throughout the country at present.
I recently met up with a friend. His
son came along, a game-obsessed third-grader who, unlike any other Korean kid I've
ever known, insists on speaking only English with me, despite the fact that he
knows very little of the language.
Aware that I'm a gamer, he proudly
proclaimed to me that he was the owner of a brand new R4 card for his DS. Just
to mess with him, I faked a scold and told him that the R4 was bad. He emphatically replied to me the
following, complete with gestures to try and pull the words out of his mouth:
"I... R4... bad think is NO!"
The 'NO' was accompanied by an
X-shaped cross of the hands. Laughing, I asked him how he got a hold of it. His
uncle bought it for him, he said.
A week before that, my wife and I
were at the local Lotte Mart one night doing some shopping. A middle-aged woman
was there with her twenty-something daughter, and they were examining the DS section,
debating what games to buy for a younger sibling along with a new DS Lite.
was obviously an issue, and though it was clear that they both possessed an
extremely minimal knowledge of the subject at hand, the decision they came to
in the end was very revealing: just buy the DS, and then get one of those
special cards that have all the games on them already. Money saved, problem
There are countless similar stories I
could share, but these two illustrate the situation well enough. In Korea, piracy of video games isn't limited to the hardcore crowd; it's
everywhere, prevalent in every age
group and economic class that exists.
And beyond being a matter of money - of
not wanting to spend money, that is -
piracy for Koreans is, perhaps even foremost, a matter of convenience.
As illustrated above, R4 owners aren't
necessarily tech-savvy. In fact, a decent number of those who venture to Seoul's Yongsan
Electronics Market seeking to buy one aren't even aware that they can pick and
choose the games that they want to download from the comfort of their own
computer at home.
Rather, the vendor shows them a list of games, transferring
the titles they select to the flash card.
The going rate at present is around
90,000 Korean Won, or about $87 USD, for the whole shebang. It should also be noted
that the vast majority of those you see consulting Yongsan vendors about the R4
with hushed voices are parents and young women.