MSNBC actually had an interesting article a few months back about the popularity of online gaming in South Korea. While most young Americans are playing consoles and watching reality TV, South Koreans are playing PC games online. According to the article, about 17 million people play online games in a population of 48 million. Here are some other interesting excerpts:
Korean's wires can transfer data at speeds of up to 50 megabits per
second (Mbps). The "elite" package from AT&T Yahoo! promises download speeds up to 6.0 Mbps. ... Close to 70 percent of South Korean households have broadband. ... As such, young people in the technology-obsessed culture have grown up online -- but not in the same way that the MySpacers have here in the United States. In South Korea, the home PC is as ubiquitous as a refrigerator.
In other words, the broadband connection in South Korea is ridiculously fast, and if you didn't own a PC here, you'd pretty much be seen as a caveman. Keeping up with technology and the latest trends is a form of social status: no luddites allowed!
Another aspect of Korean gaming is the fame and fortune. In America, you're more likely to become famous starting a pop-punk band, but in South Korea, the rockstars here are the pro gamers. Professional gaming, called "e-sports," draws as many spectators as pro sports in the States. While we have ESPN 1, 2, 3, 4, et al., the Koreans have cable channels dedicated to gaming tournaments and news. Players often make six figures playing pro, and South Korean gamers are known to dominate international StarCraft tournaments. So what will it be, Blizzard? A new StarCraft game to satiate South Koreans, who've been playing the original for nearly ten years? It seems like the right time... We'll know for sure