Spot On: Tuning in to what's on in South Korea, Japan

G4, SpikeTV, and MTV have their own array of game-centric programming, but what's available in Asia is over the top.

56 Comments

If you think you've seen the best of what TV can do in the area of game coverage, you need to take a trip to Korea. Two cable TV networks, known as Ongamenet and MBCgame, compete for viewers with their own 24-hour programming dedicated to PC and console gaming. Fierce gaming competitions are held, backed by major corporate sponsors, and studios overflow with live audiences trying to catch a glimpse at players who are practically given celebrity status.

The programming is an odd mix of competition coverage, game news, and school-girl-cute window dressing. Curious to know what's on tonight in Seoul? GameSpot News takes you on a trip East, clicker in hand.

Tuning in to South Korea TV, we find Ongamenet, a 24-hour PC/console gaming cable channel. Their number one program is called Ongamenet Starleague, which is a three-month long Starcraft tournament broadcast live every Friday beginning at 7:00 p.m. Players in the final round compete for a top cash prize of $20,000. Second- and third-place winners can win up to $10,000 and $6,000, respectively.

Surprisingly, Ongamenet's second most popular program also revolves around the world of Starcraft--titled SKY Proleague, sponsored by SKY (phone service provider SK Telecom). Eleven Starcraft teams compete in a yearlong tournament through 11 rounds, and each final competition is broadcast live, with the ultimate winner pocketing a $50,000 cash prize. The final match of this year was held in an outdoor arena rather than an indoor studio facility, and local Busan police had to control more than 120,000 spectators.

Yes, South Koreans take their gaming competitions extremely seriously.

Other popular Ongamenet programs include Game Plus, a news program that covers game releases, game news and online game league updates. Here We Go is a daily broadcast where comedian host Woot-Chat-sa and 15-year-old cohost Lee Ji-Ln compete in live online games with home viewers. South Korean teen supermodel Kim Sae-Rom hosts Hello PS Market, where new Sony PS products are introduced to viewers in the program.

Ongamenet maintains more than four studio facilities to produce and broadcast its programming in conjunction with OnMedia, its parent company. When the indoor studios become filled to capacity, people gather outside to watch the gaming competitions unfold on big screens.

AGB Nielsen Media Research has reported that ratings for this kind of programming are on the rise in South Korea. According to The Korea Times, Ongamenet and competitor MBCGame have been ranked among the top 20 shows in monthly viewership among South Korea's 99 cable TV channels. The TV viewing audience consists mostly of teenagers and has rivaled that of even MBC and KBS1, South Korea's major terrestrial networks.

The Korea Times is also reporting that competition to win audiences among broadcasters will become fierce. It's important to keep in mind that corporate sponsorship is involved as well, allocating millions of dollars in prizes and ad revenue.

China is the next country that South Korea hopes to dominate with its game competition programming, but Jung Il-hoon, the operator of the World e-Sports Games (WEG), worries that North American TV networks may take interest in such programming and overtake South Korea "Some major US TV channels such as MTV already started to have computer game shows, though we still have more know-how in running such programs. If we don't try hard to develop the content of e-sports and fail to win the Chinese market, soon we will have to import e-sports broadcasting programs from the US, just like we pay a large amount of money to watch Major League baseball," Jung said in a recent interview with Korea Times reporter Cho Jin-seo.

Jung continued with a surprising projection saying that although broadcasters and audiences are satisfied now, American TV networks may soon begin to take an interest. Jung predicts America will "easily catch up to South Korea and will eventually swallow the industry."

Interestingly, in Japan, game TV programming is surprisingly thin.

This past year Gran Turismo 4 fans in Japan got a special behind-the-scenes look at the game courtesy of TV Tokyo business program Gaia no Yoake. This hour-long program followed the game's production staff in its development offices where tense final preparations were being made on the game before its release to Japanese store shelves. A bootleg recording of the program found its way to North America via an Internet download site, and English-speaking GT4 fans discussed the show's content on bulletin boards.

The only regular game program in Japan is Gamecenter CX on Fuji TV. There used to be a morning show named Game Ex and a midnight show named Game Wave (both on the TV Tokyo network), but both shows were discontinued.

GameSpot acquired a copy of Gamecenter CX to see what the program is all about, and while no English subtitles were provided, the one-hour show was still very entertaining.

Gamecenter CX stars comedian Shinya Arino and has more of a retro-gaming focus. Arino sits down to play popular retro video games in a small room in front of a camera crew. Arino interviews famous video game designers in between games and visits popular local game arcades. Designers that Arino has interviewed in previous episodes have included Yoshiki Okamoto (Resident Evil), Yu Suzuki (Virtua Fighter), and Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid series).

In the episode Gamespot viewed, Arino sits down to play Super Mario Brothers 3 on the Nintendo Famicom (NES).

Arino inserts the cartridge and begins to play in front of the LCD flat-panel display surrounded by snacks and drinks on the table. Cameras placed around the room record every movement. Suddenly the gameplay is stopped momentarily so that the crew can refer to the instruction manual to find out how Mario can pick up an object. The production crew can be heard off-camera laughing hysterically at every mistake Arino makes in the game. The host begins to feel stressed out and, playing it for laughs, places a cold compress on his head. A soundtrack of tense music begins playing.

A narrator provides a precise play-by-play voice-over, accompanied ultimately by a triumphant music cue.

Fuji TV has produced more than 25 one-hour episodes of Gamecenter CX so far for its partner network Fuji TV Ch721.

Why hasn't all this programming made its way to English-speaking shores? Couldn't they be acquired or licensed by networks outside of Asia?

Programming executives from G4, North America's dedicated game network owned by Comcast, and SpikeTV, a Viacom-owned network aimed at men, politely declined to take part in this story citing that they are developing their own original game programming.

"Video games are the core of G4's programming strategy," a G4 spokeswoman said in a statement. "They are the foundation and basis of our network. Any programming we add to our slate will be attractive to a gamer audience and serve the male 18-34 demographic".

There is a small glimmer of hope. Niki Yoo, PR and promotions producer of Ongamenet, states that the programming will make its way to America via specialized networks aimed at Korean-speaking audiences.

"Ongamenet made a contract with TVK24 and iSkyCom, both in the US, to provide Ongamenet programs. TVK24 currently broadcasts Ongamenet programs since last March, and iSkyCom is scheduled to broadcast from early 2006," Yoo says.

Meanwhile, Iron Chef thrives on the Food Network, Asian cinema (from Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan) finds its way into Best Buy's DVD section, and Japanese female pop-duo Puffy Ami Yumi still rock their way onto Turner's Cartoon Network with their own animated series. Could the time be right for game programming to jump the Pacific and land on US shores?

For now, video game TV from the Far East will finds it way through webcasts and illegal bootleg recordings. But as the popularity of gaming competitions continues, and the acceptance of Asian pop culture grows stronger, TV viewers and gamers around the globe may not have to wait too much longer for the arrival of Asia's video game TV revolution.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 56 comments about this story
56 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
  • 56 results
  • 1
  • 2
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for Softaco21
Softaco21

878

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

Its good to see that there are people who take gaming seriously, even if they are not in the US...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for LordOfMidnight
LordOfMidnight

950

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Yeah, G4 did ruin tech TV. I miss the old days with Leo, Pat, etc.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ghsacidman
ghsacidman

792

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 69

User Lists: 0

Today is a good day for Gamers. If the US follows suit with Live Tournaments and big cash prizes.... There would be a call for more professional gamers..... Someone here could be the future "Babe Ruth" of professional gaming and not even know it yet. Gaming could be as big as professional football. The NGA Nation Gamers Association.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for plightstar
plightstar

299

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

Would be good if we cud have something like that in the UK, wud be like Gamesmaster but all day. All we get is some Italian Games network which is so rubbish and then gets cut short later in the day and replaced by Interactive press the red button now games and at night bloody Babestation like interactive po*n. Anyway Gaming needs a channel or more shows like what the Asians get so people can learn about it without thinking everyone who plays games are 12.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for jaefrmbk2k
jaefrmbk2k

479

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

tommy tallerico still thinks he's 4 years old. the other loser is like the king of dorks with his oversized head. oh and tommy's game music sucks butt, jus listen to the shows theme music-what a masterpiece. the shows' intro makes my eyes burn and my tummy hurt. just about everything they review is so old it's in the $20 game bin by the time the show airs. but their reviews are decent. don't think i'm a hayta-i jus keep it reala. i wish them all the best.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ZEtAHybrid
ZEtAHybrid

50

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I'm happy with G4

Upvote • 
Avatar image for VicMackey
VicMackey

238

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I have to say, the last thing I want to watch is somebody else playing a videogame. I could root for my friend against someone, but Fata1ity, or some South Korean champion gamer? Not interested. It's a waste of valuable time that could be spent playing the game myself.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for elreyway
elreyway

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

y did they take away my TINA WOOD ? :( .....damn u g4 ...the only thing good in g4 is x-play, though i wish adam sesswhatever would die....thx g4 4 getting rid of the shows that mattered and 4 ruining the screen savers....attack of the show friggin sux PS3 savings: $0.00........just say no, just say no, just say no....aaaaaah i cant !!.....hippie lettuce u own me :( MugeN -aka- MugZ....not elreyway

Upvote • 
Avatar image for dragonsama
dragonsama

883

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I'll sum this up really quick. Korea's Game TV Stations >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> G4

Upvote • 
Avatar image for jaefrmbk2k
jaefrmbk2k

479

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

the most relevant show on G4 was G4tv.com and now iss gone. all the other shows on G4 are so dated iss pointless to watch. now we get to watch star trek, waht a sad joke.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for chrisdojo
chrisdojo

5065

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

man, i miss the 'nintendo power' show that was on in the 80's...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for BurdGoBoom
BurdGoBoom

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Because the "male 18-34 demographic" is the only one that plays games...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for DEViANce3
DEViANce3

293

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Dat's it. Im goin to Korea to make a living playing games :)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for natethegreat235
natethegreat235

171

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

I read somewhere that in china MMO games are becoming such a problem that the government is forcing the companies that run MMO's to limit children to playing MMO's for no longer then 3 hours at a time. If they go over there character's levels/powers are cut in half. That only applys for kids though.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for krispydigital
krispydigital

413

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

yea....korea is like that. I watched this one match, and this one popular dude was gonna lose... all these girls were crying. But he made some frickin insande comback with a dropship... and yea.... its just insane. Apparently that dude makes 700k a yer -_-

Upvote • 
Avatar image for PSPdude79
PSPdude79

70

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

That's cool but I think somthing like that would not happen in The U.S.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Sonicplys
Sonicplys

2557

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

They should put these shows on the AZN channel. That would rock.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Destiny_Smasher
Destiny_Smasher

61

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

Then there's the whole spiel with Koreans playing so much MMO that they DIE.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for IvanR34
IvanR34

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

xzasdn

Upvote • 
Avatar image for joeamis
joeamis

3010

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Also it still has more games being played online than most every other game out there, it was in the top 10 of the sales charts for years upon years, and its still being sold today (8 years later). Not that these facts should be noted of its quality, but rather something which gives weight to the equation.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for joeamis
joeamis

3010

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Name them + tell why. In my personal experience and in the opinion of most gamers the world over, SC, was the best of it's time, better than all before it, and even seen as the best today. There are many reasons why, one of the most significant being the 3 vastly different races and incredible balancing. Also just wondering if you've ever played it online, tried UMS games, created your own campaigns or your own UMS games that you hosted online?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wytefang
wytefang

776

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 0

I thought it wasn't that great. There are and were FAR better RTSs, sorry bud. Talk about a game being WAY over-hyped...silly Koreans.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for joeamis
joeamis

3010

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I've known about SC being televised for years now, that is why I'm moving to Korea; that and the pretty asian women. Oh, and I still play SC, and always will; it's one of the most amazing games ever made, anyone who calls it cr@p needs a lobotomy.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for 481989
481989

680

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

Man, I would love to see that Korean Starcraft tournament.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for 1krnassassin
1krnassassin

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Which is exacly why, in America, the channel should be a tech channel first, video game channel second. Just like TechTV was. Mainly focused on the technology stuff which is always changing, but when E3 arrived, a lot of the shows added stuff about that and xplay got more air time. But when I went over to Korea, I was watching those channels 24/7. I really couldn't get enough, me and my friends are still talking about those things. But when I think about a show like that over here in America, it just doesn't feel right. Maybe it's because I know that some person who doesn't know gaming will host and mess it all up. I really do miss TechTV though, thats where my first love of technology started.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for FortunaBib
FortunaBib

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Can i actually download that episode of Gamecenter GX somewhere? Sounds really interesting. By the way: In Germany, we have just one show dedicated to video games. It's called "Giga Games", and it's two hours a day, all week. But they have a hard time staying on the market and taking the show further, since not many people watch it... it's Germany, not Korea.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for XlpranksterlX
XlpranksterlX

7438

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

Screenshots 8 & 9 sum it up nicely for those of you that didnt read. Anyway im surprised they dont talk about WOW in there.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wokisan
wokisan

157

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

I would love to be able to watch some of these programs. The Gamecenter CX show sounds hilarious but I know alot of peeps here in the US would think it's just 'stupid'. I don't think we will ever see these shows over here in the States. As far as G4 goes....how exactly are they concentrating on gaming? ROFL. Execs make these statements all the time that are just so obviously false....do they think we are that stupid. Geez......................BTW I love the drama on Iron Chef...cracks me up.. "And today's mystery ingredient is....(drum roll) CARROTS!!!! (dramatic music) Yes, Carrot Battle begins NOW!!!" LOL.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for petrnorth18
petrnorth18

1102

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

i wish we had some more video game shows!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Atarii
Atarii

1714

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 47

User Lists: 0

North America will likely never sustain a popular 'video game' program channel. Look at G4 taking over TechTV.... it sort of ruined both.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for jakeboudville
jakeboudville

90576

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

more video games shows to watch

Upvote • 
Avatar image for gdogg4210
gdogg4210

2925

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Colorful

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wytefang
wytefang

776

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 0

G4TV was totally weak, they were mainly console supporters and it was very obvious at that. Glad it's gone, honestly. I do enjoy Xplay though due to their crappy rating system they should probably call X-play, 3 out of 5. Digital Playground is interesting from time to time and the show with Tommy Tallarico and Victor (forget what it's called) is very good, I think. Their reviews are far better than X-play's... South Koreans are still playing STARCRAP? LOLOLOL

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wytefang
wytefang

776

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 0

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Upvote • 
Avatar image for winnazdaluza
winnazdaluza

973

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

I think there are some naive old people people out there that still think video games are for kids instead of a cultural phenomenon and the newest social revolution.They need to wake up and smell the coffee . vidoe gamming is part of the future --they can deny it now but not for long.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Darkwing_Duck
Darkwing_Duck

1190

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

The board game I went to occasionally, enjoi_your_day, didn't have drinks for free. In fact, they were very expensive. Saw a sign that said 시티 DVD 방 on Jongno, I think between the second and third station. Amusing to me because of the pronunciation discrepancy. You ever go to the arcade in Insadong? They have about 4 different types of Bubble Bobble. All of them the HARD version. Couldn't get past level 12.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ZeldaMaster32
ZeldaMaster32

9263

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

I want G4tv.com back on the air! :( I miss Tina, Jeff, and Laura.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Dax207983
Dax207983

648

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Sorry but I find X-Play mostly funny and entertaining. The biography show G4 does (can't remember the name) is well done, sort of an A&E for videogames. But some of the other crap: Man Show, Star Trek, Happy Tree Friends (disgusting) is mind-numbingly off topic for a VIDEO GAME CHANNEL. What the hell ever happened to Leo LaPorte by the way?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Wesker22222
Wesker22222

49

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

yeah G4 is really screwing things up it all started for me with the new attack of the show thing i wasnt really into that i mean they took allot of the tech stuff off not to mention new shows that are coming up I mean whats up with training camp and not to mention star trek i mean whats up with that they shouldve kept g4tv.com , the screensavers and have more shows that are purely tech and games. say all you want aobut judgement day sucking but at least they only talk games

Upvote • 
Avatar image for NeoJedi
NeoJedi

11567

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 75

User Lists: 0

I'd like to see some of those shows, it looks pretty fun. And very good article GS, enjoyed the read a lot.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for enjoi_your_day
enjoi_your_day

2453

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I live in Seoul, its all true, and yes Korean people LOVE Starcraft. Also their used to be three channels that had game coverage. These guys over here are hardcore. Especially PC gaming their are PC Bongs (pc cafe's) every like 15-20minutes, and offer great prices and with many more now offering free drinks, food, and console gaming. Hardcore gaming is very accepted in Korea.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for 2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

2713

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

gaming has become a big part of korea's culture. that is where most of the big tournaments are held for pro gamers (at least for starcraft and warcraft3) and its all televised and such. i have never been their only read about it but i assume that wathcing matches on tv is like watching football or basketball here. this sort of programming will never make its way to north america because gaming is still looked down upon by society (at least in terms of hardcore gaming). it is a shame because i personally love wathcing matches of counter strike or warcraft while i eat or when im bored. if only some1 with massive influence could start shining some positive lights on the whole esports movement that is happening in the rest of the world. websites like www.gotfrag.com have become quite serious but that isnt enough, we need some1 big like microsoft to start using xboxlive to hold leagues and tournaments for fps games and hopefully sponsors will catch on and start supporting the whole pro gamer dream. my 2 cents anyways.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ze_krusty_krab
ze_krusty_krab

2219

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

More proof that Asia really does have it sweet when it comes to videogames. Rest of the world, look on in envy...I happened to watch some videogame TV when I was in Singapore last year, and it really is good entertainment. Hopefully , such programming can find its way into living rooms in other parts of the world, too.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for abdu4
abdu4

4187

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Cant wait to watch it

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Darkwing_Duck
Darkwing_Duck

1190

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

Lots of Lurkers in those games. Lots and lots of them. When I watched them, nearly 60% of the time it was Lurkers vs Heavy Metal.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Donkeljohn
Donkeljohn

4087

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 21

User Lists: 1

Infotainment at its best

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Mona5443
Mona5443

151

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Good article. I would love for something like that to happen here in the states, but it probably wouldn't.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for breakout911
breakout911

396

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I'd gladly accept it, especially after G4 ruined TechTV.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for runstalker
runstalker

2894

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

A real gaming network with some integrity (as opposed to gibbering geeked-out self-deprecation a la Adam Sessler) won't happen in North America. There are far too many people running the $how behind the scenes that want cross-promotion and BS. You'll always have the MTV-Mountain Dew-too cool for school crap when it comes to US gaming shows. That's the culture here. Hardcore gamers won't drive the ratings or bring the ads.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Nintendo_Man
Nintendo_Man

19724

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

They will die fast if they tried them here in Australia.

Upvote • 
  • 56 results
  • 1
  • 2