By Cho Jin-seo
Bad publicity and incompatibility of software titles are making Nintendo's Wii game console sell less in South Korea than in other countries.
Wii is the hugely popular video game player that uses a motion-sensitive remote controller. Market estimates suggest that between 35,000 and 40,000 were sold in its first month on sale since April 26, far below the firm's expectation.
Such a performance is disappointing for Nintendo, considering the firm has sold about 25 million Wiis globally. It is also far short of the popularity of Nintendo DS, the portable game player which was released by Nintendo early last year and sold more than 1 million here.
Gamers have complained that Nintendo's fussy policies on software piracy and strict regional code system have discouraged Korean gamers from Wii. The Korean version is tied to a regional code system, forcing customers to buy localized game titles only.
``Hard-core gamers don't like to buy Wii because the Korean version can only play Korean version software titles, which so far are few,'' said Jang Jae-heung, a 30-year-old gamer. ``Many want to play popular Japanese titles. This is important because it is hard-core gamers who lead the gaming market trend.''
The usually secretive Nintendo's Korean branch refused to comment. PROne, it's PR agency, said that Nintendo hasn't announced Wii's official tally and there is no plan to unleash the regional code system as well.
The Korea-only code system is costing the firm the foreign audience in Korea as well. As the Korean version only supports the Korean language and Nintendo Korea only provides its after-sale services to those Korean versions, expatriates in Korea have no other options but to learn Korean to play Wii.
Despite such disappointments, Wii is still outperforming its rivals, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation3. About 150,000 Xbox 360s were sold in its first two years while 50,000 PlayStation3 were sold in its first year, local game magazines estimate.
Wii's Korean debut also faces the threat of software piracy. The company has already struggled with the widespread use of illegal game copies of Nintendo DS, which were released a year ago here. Those copies can be easily obtained on many file-sharing Web services for free.
Wii is no exception to the horde of online pirates. Already some game shops in major electronics stores and online shops have been selling imported Wii players that have a special chip transplanted to run duplicated games. Last week, a foreign Web site called D2Pro announced that they have cracked the anti-piracy system of the Korean version of the Wii.