Fmulder dug up an interesting article from the Korea Times, about the apparent problems Diablo III is going to have getting cleared by that company’s Game Ratings Board. Games can not be sold in Korea without a rating, and another recent title was denied due to a similar real money item selling system.
Thankfully we don’t need translation, since the article is in English.
When does video gaming become gambling? To critics, it is the moment players start spending real money. Blizzard Entertainment, one of the world’s leading video game companies, plans to introduce a real-currency marketplace in Diablo III, the much-awaited second sequel to the megahit series of the same name. In a country where young people play games for hours in “PC bang” or Internet cafes, the prospect of a government approving such a trading platform seems out of the question to many.
…The issue of gambling, illegal for Korean nationals, is a sensitive one, especially after a 2005-06 nationwide scandal over the Sea Story game machines that first passed the regulatory body inspection but were removed after the police discovered excessively speculative and addictive behavior among the players. Due to this controversy, the watchdog and approval committee was created in the Game Rating Board.
…The country’s attitude toward gaming involving cash transactions has irked Blizzard’s local staff who are reluctant to deal with the controversy expected with the introduction of the auction house but are forced by headquarters to launch the feature, an industry source familiar with the matter said.
…“We’ve heard speculation comparing item trading to some form of gambling, but in gambling you’re putting something at risk to win,” said Morhaime. “Items” are won by individual players during the game when they complete a mission. Critics say they come through a randomized selection process, which is based on uncertainty like a card game, but Blizzard says it is a product of the player’s efforts. “(In Diablo III), you’re not risking anything. You’re just investing your time (to win items to sell). It is an important distinction.”
This issue came up during recent podcastsand , and in both instances no one took the “finding a good item you can sell for $ = gambling” argument seriously. As Morhaime said in the quote, a key element of gambling is that you’re risking something for a potential payoff. Unless someone can argue that your purchase price (or hourly fees, in Korean baangs), or the time you spend finding items = paying to gamble, and that’s a pretty tenuous argument.
Obviously the Korean game rating board might feel differently, and you have to wonder how that will impact Blizzard’s profit projections in that market, if they have to strip out the RMAH in Korea. Also, might this set a precedent for other countries less accommodating to online gambling-like activities?