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“We Must Match Nintendo!”

LMB has laid down the gauntlet.  Last month, South Korea’s Maximum Leader president lamented that Korea does not have ingenious (or “indigenous”) products like the Wii or the PSP. 

A saddened LMB was reported to have said:

A lot of our elementary school children have Nintendo game machines. Why can’t our companies develop products like that?

Nevermind that Japanese companies like Nintendo have been at it since Space Invaders in 1980 or that the onerous costs of developing, marketing and manufacturing complex game consoles like the PS3 has literally been like an albatross around Sony’s neck.  However, thus saith LMB, so thus it shall be done

Earlier this week the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) announced a partnership with a local electronics makers to form GamePark Holdings to try and match the Japanese prowess in game consoles. 

 From the KT

However, Korean gaming experts are stratching their heads.  Korea already has some pretty good gaming software companies such as NCSoft, which are not getting any government support.  An unnamed mobile games developer added:

Talking about Nintendo is out of touch, when you consider that the local software market is virtually on life-support. Piracy and lack of quality personnel has killed the vibrancy of the Korean software market, and I wonder whether the government has ever been serious about fostering the country’s software industry. It’s telling that most of the computers at government agencies rely on pirated software.

Another exec also slammed Lee’s government:

You don’t have the right to be daydreaming about Nintendo, when Korean online game firms, which are actually doing well overseas, feel they could do better if the government wasn’t biting at their ankles.  (Emphasis Mine)

Korea’s rather forceful mix of government mandated development has worked for cars, ships and consumer electronics, but one can’t help but wonder if the drive to create a Korean Nintendo is just a big waste of time, money and energy that can best be used elsewhere.

  • Bipolar Mindscrew

    The Game Park 32 (the original) was an interesting piece of hardware, linux-based and when the company employees revolted (presumably for good reason) and formed Game Park Holdings, they took their genius and created the GP2X… this was years ago. They have updated the GP2X several times but WangKon you are wrong to assume this is a small unknown company with no history that is just starting-up… rather it is the perfect candidate for funding, since they already have a great idea, and an International fan-base – many of whom I’m sure would be interesting in buying this under-sized open-source handheld, if only there was more software available for it…

  • http://koreabeat.com Korea Beat

    A lot of those kids playing Nintendo DS may have cellphones capable of delivering pretty advanced games. John Carmack’s recent musings on his port of Wolfenstein 3D to the iPhone are pretty interesting reading.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    If it ain’t an Xbox 360, it ain’t shit.

  • R. Elgin

    Yes “wangkon”, that executive you quoted reminds me of the fact that we have a Ministry of Culture (and tourism) that promotes Korean culture (including software game content), yet the same government charges the living hell out of producers and promoters that try to bring artists into any of the larger performance spaces, which are mostly owned by the government, thus helping make many cultural events overly expensive for the average Korean.

    The right hand gives while the left hand takes.

  • http://www.smokehard.com chiamattt

    Just wait, you’ll pick up that Korean handheld console and then spend ten hours trying to install ActiveX controls, keying in secret codes from a card, and then saving encrypted crap onto a usb stick which needs to be inserted into the console every time you want to start it up.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    # 3,

    My PS3 can beat up your XBox 360… ;)

  • dry

    With services like Steam, we’re going to just end up with game consoles which are just tightly packed PCs. xbox is pretty much that, and Sony’s already emulating the system, albeit much poorly. The Korean government should just focus on assisting companies which provide the basic high-end components to electronics.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    The PS3 has Blu-Ray..!

    … you get the cow, you get the milk for free… ;)

  • cmm

    @5 and you’ll have to enter secret code numbers that you receive in SMS messages to keep playing.

  • cmm

    I wish I had a dime for every time Nintendo’s been used as the model example to inspire creativity at the large Korean electronics chaebol that employs me.

    Once again, we are being encouraged to follow the Japanese…

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    I know, sad huh? Why don’t Koreans aspire to give the world something different rather than rehash something Japanese? How about new Korean software products? Fashion? Miracle pharmaceuticals? Biotech?

    I’d love to see a Korean Merck or Pfizer. How about a Korean Medtronic? A Korean Activision or Electronic Arts? Or a Korean Sun Microsystems or Microsoft?

    Why does it always have to be a Korean Toyota (Hyundai) or a Korean Kumatsu (Doosan), or a Korean Sony (Samsung) or a Korean Sharp (LG) or a… you get the picture.

  • http://www.jdlink.co.kr Linkd

    Why don’t Koreans aspire to give the world something different rather than rehash something Japanese? Why does it always have to be a Korean Toyota (Hyundai) or a Korean Kumatsu (Doosan)…

    You’re not seriously asking that as a real question, surely?

  • http://www.occidentalism.org shakuhachi

    WangKon936,

    Easy. Industrial espionage. All they need to do is hire retrenched Japanese workers that used to be in sensitive positions (and feel betrayed by their companies because they had an expectation of lifetime employment), and use the secret tech to develop their own products. Coming up with something entirely new takes lots of primary research, a lot of which might not even pan out in making products that can be marketed.

  • judge judy

    killer technology applications rarely come out of korea. in addition, the business model is becoming increasingly more important for products to be successful and oftentimes trumps the technology. i see few cases of innovative business models coming out of korea as well. however, a couple of years ago ncsoft did move to micropayments and a velvet rope approach to membership which was refreshing to see.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Some of that’s probably true and certain types of reverse engineering are legal. How do you think everyone was able to clone IBM PCs in the 80′s? However, I do know that for the early Hyundai Excels they legally bought the technology from Mitsubishi. I think Sanyo also sold a lot of technology to Samsung.

    However, this latest drive to build another Nintendo is insane and doesn’t make any sense, the sale of technology and/or industrial espionage really being besides the point in this particular case.

  • http://www.occidentalism.org shakuhachi

    WangKon936,

    Anything they produced would not only have to be as good as the next gen consoles (PS4 etc), but would have to be WAAAY better. They also need the software developers to come forth with games. They also need some sort of programming system that programmers are comfortable using, and not saddle developers with the progamming equivalent of Active X.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Yeah, my point exactly… it will take Korea a million years to build a Nintendo and there are no guarantees that they can no matter how much time, money and resources they pour into it. LMB is nuts for thinking they have a chance and I just hope they don’t waste a lot of money trying.

    Now, online gaming is different… but they have significant obstacles there as well, but A LOT less than game consoles at the level of a Wii or PS3.

  • http://www.occidentalism.org shakuhachi

    WangKon936,

    All this might be irrelevant. This has the potential to kill all the consoles, and also eliminate piracy.

    http://www.onlive.com/index.html

  • http://www.occidentalism.org shakuhachi
  • NetizenKim

    #17

    Yeah, my point exactly… it will take Korea a million years to build a Nintendo and there are no guarantees that they can no matter how much time, money and resources they pour into it. LMB is nuts for thinking they have a chance and I just hope they don’t waste a lot of money trying.

    I have an electrical engineering degree so that qualifies me to shed some input upon the matter.

    From the perspective of government economic policy, the proposal makes a lot of sense. Developing an indigenous game console industry builds upon Korea’s existing established strengths, which is electronics/semiconductor manufacturing and high-speed broadband network infrastructure. A game console is basically just a highly specialized PC in terms of hardware, optimized for the purpose of playing video games. It has a microprocessor, hard drive, memory, optical media reader, and input/output interfaces. There is an operating system. Mass-producing game consoles will obviously provide spillover benefits to domestic manufacturers of such components such as Samsung, Hynix, and LG. Hardware, though, is not the most important aspect of a gaming system. It is the software and other value-adding content. While the Korean software has pockets of strength, Korea is currently not a significant player. Having a robust game system industry may help change that.

    The wisest thing for ETRI to do would be to work with an established game developer, and not one of the major Chaebol hardware manufacturers, to function as the conceptual designer and system integration lead. They come up with the blueprint, business model and focus on the games/content; the actual manufacturing can be done by someone else (like Samsung).

    Ideally, the endeavor would adopt an open-source approach across the board. If I were running the show, this is what I would do: The OS should be based on a locally-developed and tweaked variant of Linux (avoid licensing fees). I would incorporate some novel technology into the game console, such as solid-state hard drives, multicore CPU, and blu-ray optical drive (just like the PS 3). I would price the game console at half the cost of a Nintendo, Playstation, or X-box. The idea is to get as much people as possible to buy the system to form a critical mass and have a market presence to work with. I will be actually losing money on the consoles themselves but the government will subsidize this. I will be making profit on the games and services provided via the console.

    In terms of design, I would try to make this game console the next step on the evolutionary scale in terms of convergence. In other words, it is not strictly a game machine. It’s also a bona-fide home entertainment system, designed to be paired with a flat screen TV as a de-facto monitor; you download and watch HD movies with it, surf the web and watch Youtube, download and listen to music (like an iTunes service), and burn CDs (which no game console currently does). Maybe, it would incorporate an (optional 4-point surround sound speakers) I would charge monthly fee for membership to popular MMPO games.

  • http://www.korealawblog.com Brendon Carr (Korea Law Blog)

    Sounds a lot like the next AppleTV…

  • Bipolar Mindscrew

    onlive is a crap idea… the idea that it is somehow cheaper for the processing to be done at a remote location and then merely displayed at your location lacks one (obvious) detail: bandwidth costs money and speed will be limited by servers… even Google, with their massive amount of both, still has load lag.

    Also, the article reeks of propaganda and “the future is here” optimism. Like this line: “Entry-level PCs and Macs provide the same experience as high-end PCs and Macs.” After calling it a “console” which it obviously isn’t since it requires a computer of some kind to do some processing… also, some games are successful based on the elitism of having the hardware needed to power it. This is aimed at the same morons who buy an iPod Touch for gaming a Wii so they can stay fit, and an Apple TV so they can watch “online” movies. EPIC FAIL.

    One thing Korea is on top of is (built in China) DivX hard drive mediaboxes…

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Ironically, GP2X is most commonly used to run Sega and Nintendo emulators.

  • http://www.smokehard.com chiamattt

    Despite my reservations regarding a Korean handheld game console…those of you who think that Korea doesn’t come up with revolutionary products should bite your tongue. The mp3 player originated in Korea. It isn’t that Korea can’t invent things…the problem is that they can’t promote and market them. That’s the key to nintendo. It isnt’ that their shit is good, it’s that they know how to market their shit.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Don’t forget the thunderstix! I know it’s not a high tech product, but it was a nice invention.

  • abcdefg

    Speaking of espionage, all we need to do is invent a time machine and go into the year 2050 (nothing farther because it would be too radical), take a dozen games and the latest Play Stations from the time, and then return to 2009 and market these PSs as the new “HanKool” gaming consoles, ready for Christmas this year.

    That’ll do the trick. Korea will become so rich that even the obnoxious ahjusshis on the streets will be drunk with Cristal champagne, and they’ll only be bitter from Korea’s hedonistic excesses, lack of humility, the emphasis on materalism and happiness, etc..

    Oh you philosophical ahjusshis, I can already feel your pain.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    I know you mean to be funny abcdef… but I don’t know if dominance in game consoles alone is going to make a country rich. Margins are fairly thin in consumer electronics.

    Now, if somehow we got a time machine back 30,000 BC and moved all the minjok to Saudi Arabia and teach them how to defend it against encroaching Arabic nomads, then we’d all be rich.

  • Zonath

    Now, if somehow we got a time machine back 30,000 BC and moved all the minjok to Saudi Arabia, then we’d all be rich.

    Isn’t Saudi Arabia’s per capita income actually less than South Korea’s? Plus, Koreans would all be Wahabi, which would basically suck ass all over the place.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Okay, replace Saudi Arabia w/United Arab Emirates… ;)

  • Granfalloon

    I can’t imagine why any company would want so badly to get into the video game industry. Microsoft had to hemorrhage money for years just to get their foot in the door. And even now, with all of their “success,” they’re barely holding on (in homing gaming, that is). Sony has taken a beating as well. All three of them, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, sell their home gaming systems at a loss. So unless they can sell games like hotcakes in a colony of hotcake addicts during a hotcake embargo, they go belly up. Just ask Atari, Sega and countless others. And considering how widespread software piracy is in Korea . . . well, if Korea wants to get into this industry, good luck. They’re gonna need it.

  • Bipolar Mindscrew

    Ahhh the old illusion that gaming companies sell consoles at a loss… when they post their component “costs” these numbers are known to be inflated. It’s simply bad business sense to “sell at loss” though perhaps it takes a few years to recoup initial investments (such as building a factory…

  • SomeguyinKorea

    #24,

    The first digital audio player was built by a Briton in 1979, actually.

    I think you’re thinking about the first mass-produced digital audio player.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    #26,

    Haven’t you watched Back to the Future? Clearly, it’s better to travel in past with a sports almanac. For one, your earnings will be unaffected by the economy, piracy, and industrial espionage.

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  • NetizenKim

    If you own a Nintendo Wii, XBox 360, or Sony PS3 (like me)and you’ve been racking your head on how to watch stuff like youtube or any other online content on your X-inch LCD TV, there is a way to do so without buying new hardware.

    There is an excellent free software called TVersity which can stream internet video to your game console from your computer via Wi-fi or lan connection.

    http://tversity.com/

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