Korean Game Addiction, Regulations May Be Factor in Nexon Sale

Nexon is Korea’s largest game company and it’s currently up for sale. It reportedly has bids from companies like Electronic Arts, Amazon, and Tencent. Now, The Korea Herald is reporting that the country’s strict gaming regulations might’ve played a role in the decision to sell.

Nexon’s founder and largest shareholder, Kim Jung-ju, is reportedly “tired of regulatory clampdowns,” and wants to pursue a different line of business.

Nexon has a number of popular online PC titles in its portfolio, including “Maple Story,” “Maple Story 2,” “Mabinogi,” and “Riders of Icarus.” It also publishes many mobile titles through its Nexon Company and Nexon M labels.

Concerns over gaming addiction recently sparked some draconian measures in Korea. People can’t log in and play between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., according to The Korea Herald. In-game spending is also limited to 500,000 won a month (about $444 USD) for adults and 70,000 won a month ($62) for minors.

The World Health Organization is also concerned about gaming addiction. It decided to officially recognize it as a mental health condition in its 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases in June 2018. It will be presented to WHO member states at the annual World Health Assembly for adoption in January 2022. For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, “the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months,” the WHO said in a September 2018 Q&A.

While Nexon’s parent company, NXC, is denying that its decision to sell had anything to do with the regulations, others in the industry are reportedly taking the opportunity to complain they are being socially condemned for a business that’s thriving and contributing to the economy, according to The Korea Herald. The top three Korean game companies — Nexon, Netmarble, and NCSoft — made a combined revenue of over five trillion won in 2018.

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