DS, Wii heading to Korea

Nintendo announces plans to release Korean-version consoles and games.

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On July 7 this year, Nintendo announced that it had opened a new office in South Korea with an initial capital investment of 25 billion won (approx $27 million.) But until now, there had been no news about the subsidiary which appeared to be floundering in its plans for the "Koreanization" of Nintendo's products.

Video games are big business in Korea, particularly online, and game addiction is a problem addressed by the government, a situation made noteworthy after a man died while playing World of Warcraft online.

But one of the big problems in breaking into the Korean market is the high level of piracy in the region, thought to be as much as 40 to 50 percent of the market--which means that original copies of games and computer software do not sell well in the country's retail shops.

Until recently, Japanese game companies like Nintendo and Sony also faced another problem--Japanese game consoles and games were illegal in Korea. This century-old law also banned other Japanese culture imports, including movies and music, but has now been phased out gradually, starting in 1998. By 2003, the law had been completely overturned, allowing Japanese pop culture to "invade" the country.

Now, Nintendo is following in the footsteps of Sony and Microsoft with big plans. The PlayStation Portable was launched on May 2, 2005, and the Xbox 360 at the beginning of 2006.

After a rocky start, Nintendo Korea seems to be working up a full head of steam--it has announced the release of the Korean language DS Lite on January 18, 2007, and has enlisted the services of heart-throb actor Jang Dong-gun for an advertising campaign to promote the handheld. It will be initially available in four colours--crystal white, ice blue, noble pink, and jet black--and will retail for 150,000 won ($162.)

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata recently held a press conference at Nintendo company headquarters with members of the Korean media, in which he announced Nintendo's plans to move aggressively into the Korean game market.

Iwata also confirmed that work was under way on a Korean language version of the Wii and that it would be available in late 2007. In addition, Nintendo has begun to develop games in partnership with Korean game company Nexon. He told The JoongAng Daily, "We will begin sales after localization is complete. We plan to actively support Korean game software developers who have great expertise in developing online games and support their advances into foreign markets."

He added that he was confident that Nintendo would be as successful in Korea as it has been in the US and Europe, but added that because of the predominance of online gaming, he almost felt like he was "selling women's cosmetics to men."

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