By Kim Tong-hyung
The news just keeps getting worse for computer games giant Blizzard Entertainment, which is reeling after Korea's Games Rating Board moved to ban youngsters from playing its upcoming title, ``StarCraft II.''
StarCraft II was obviously the most-anticipated launch of 2010, being the sequel to the original game that has sold more than 5 million copies since its 1998 release, while singlehandedly spawning a whole new industry of ``PC bangs'' (commercial gaming lounges), and professional gaming leagues within a movement dubbed as e-sports.
The decision by the Games Rating Board, a unit of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, is certainly a letdown, although Blizzard can file an objection within the next 30 days.
A Blizzard Korea spokeswoman said the company has yet to decide whether to challenge the decision by Korean game censors. Should Blizzard opt to adjust the disputed parts of the content and retry the whole reviewing process, as it did with the first game, the release of StarCraft II would likely be delayed until next year.
``We have nothing to say at this point. We are discussing our official position on the matter as well as what would be the right reaction,'' she said.
The Games Rating Board's decision to designate StarCraft II for gamers 18 years and older came as a surprise, as it was the same panel that gave an over-15-rating for previous test versions of the game last year.
Blizzard, however, was seeking something similar to the over-12-rating it got from North America, and requested a re-evaluation in April with a release candidate (RC) version of the game.
At least for now, the move seems to have blown up in Blizzard's face, with the Games Rating Board insisting on getting stricter on the game's level of violence, foul language and depiction of drug use.
``Considering that the RC version of the game is closer to what will be sold on the shelves compared to the beta versions, we looked more carefully at the content,'' said an official from the Games Rating Board.
``However, this rating is not final, as Blizzard will get the chance to object to it.''
The government attempts to improve gaming behavior and curb compulsive gaming and addictions may also have influenced the over-18-rating for StarCraft II. The measures, which are clearly focused on younger players who are apparently more vulnerable, include requiring games companies to introduce ``fatigue systems,'' which force disadvantages in game play when the advised limit for playing time is exceeded.