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September 17, 2007 12:34 pm

Nintendo asks Korea to probe websites

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Nintendo on Monday in a rare move demanded South Korean prosecutors investigate domestic websites that have uploaded illegal copies of the company’s games.

The move marks the first time the Japanese video gamesmaker has called upon prosecutors in Asia to help combat piracy, a problem that has dogged the games industry increasingly in recent years.

Until now the company had issued warnings to pirates but had not requested action from the relevant prosecutor. The company has been more active in the US and Europe, with some perpetrators fined millions of dollars.

Nintendo’s Korean unit filed the complaint on Monday with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, accusing some internet users of uploading pirated copies of its DS game titles, and web operators of tolerating such copies.

The Japanese company said that it was lodging the case because its demands to halt and remove the illegal copies had not been met and it would continue to deal strictly with such illegal practices in Korea. “Nintendo will take further measures if copyright violations continue,” the company said.

Nintendo only established a presence in the massive Korean games market last year and began selling its DS Lite handheld games player in January. Sales reached 270,000 units in only four months.

However, pirated uploads of popular DS titles have proliferated there due to Korea’s massive broadband penetration rates – the highest in the world.

Nintendo Korea on Monday said it was aiming to introduce the Wii console to the Korean market soon. The console last week became the world’s best-selling next-generation games console, finally edging past Microsoft’s Xbox 360 in sales in spite of having been launched a year later.

The Japanese company is now enjoying its position as the top maker of consoles in the $30bn global games market – a title it last held 17 years ago with the Nintendo and Super Nintendo game consoles.

The Kyoto-based company is seeking to strengthen its online games network, which has lagged behind Microsoft’s Xbox Live service and Sony’s PlayStation Network.

Nintendo will early next year release software called WiiWare, which will allow individuals and game studios to create their own games for the console. They will then have to apply for a license with Nintendo, and if approved, consumers will be able to purchase the games through the console's Wii Shop channel.

Nintendo has been working closely with third-party developers with the advent of the Wii and the handheld DS games player, reversing a previous strategy of relying heavily on its in-house software developers.

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