Korean companies utilising computer gamers to attract Netizens

Seoul, Feb 18 (Asia Pulse) - Wake up at 3 p.m. and turn on the computer at 6p.
Written by ZDNet Staff, Contributor

Seoul, Feb 18 (Asia Pulse) - Wake up at 3 p.m. and turn on the computer at 6 p.m. to check email and chat on-line after eating and doing light exercise. PC game training follows from 8 p.m. through 5 a.m. and meeting for strategies follow.

This type of unusual schedule is that of professional gamers of Hanaro Telecom, which has operated its own professional game team from last month. Team member Choi Jin-woo compares the members' lives to those of baseball or soccer players of a company. The gamers receive an annual salary, vehicles and small apartments from the company like athletes in other professional sports.

Game players endorse the company and participate in various events including game lessons and tournaments. As well as Hanaro Telecom, other many companies like Samsung Corp., Korea Telecom Freetel, cyber tour company 3W Tour, Internet service provider Netian and Intz.com and software developing company Web Net Korea have their own professional game teams.

A league for the teams was also officially launched last month. Game ranking company Battle Top inaugurated the Korea Internet Game League (KIGL) Jan. 13 with 14 professional teams backed by small and large companies applied for participation. "The company, which owns a professional team, can utilize the image of its gamers for product marketing while gamers can secure stable financial aid and field for activities," Battle Top President Lee Kang-min said.

Wireless Internet service provider Hansol M.com went one step further by opening its own international Internet game tournament. The company will hold the final game at Seoul Hilton Feb. 27 after preliminary rounds that run from Jan. 25 through Feb. 24.

Ten million won (US$8,900) awaits every winner in games like Starcraft, Unreal Tournament, Age of Empire II, Kingdom under Fire, Lineage and Star Chase. Many companies are showing keen interest in PC game marketing like this as the market is surging with the number of Internet users exceeding 10 million. Korea had 250 game companies and 13,000 PC game rooms at the end of last year and the domestic game market is estimated at 2 trillion won, including an on-line game market worth 10 billion won.

The number of PC game room users is estimated at 3.5 million to four million and around 30 small and large game tournaments were held last year, and some 50 this year. Many marketing officials of various companies, let alone those related to games, believe game marketing is the best in the Internet market to attract netizens and make them remember their brand names.

GoldBank will spend 5 billion won to hold international Olympics for PC games next month, to which gamers from 10 or more countries will be invited. The company aims to advertise its brand name internationally by broadcasting the games via the Internet live. "More and more professional game teams and leagues are likely to appear given the skyrocketing enthusiasm toward computer games among Korean teenagers," a marketing official said.

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