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South Korean mobile MMOG raises addiction worries

Success of KTF's Imo: The World of Magic poses questions for mobile gaming

Concerns have been raised over the potential dangers of addiction to mobile games following the unprecedented success of one of the first massively multiplayer titles to be launched in the South Korean market.

The region's second largest carrier KTF launched Imo: The World of Magic earlier this month, and saw over 42,000 users download the game within ten days - with peak time simultaneous users exceeding 1000 already, and 3000 to 4000 new players downloading the title each day.

The game, which will cost 4,900 Won (about 4 Euro) per month to play as of next month, will be launched on the country's largest carrier, SKT, at some point in autumn, and the success of the title should have been a cause for celebration for game developer Com2us and for the well-developed Korean mobile content market.

However, instead it is raising questions in the media about the addictive potential of such games - with concerns being expressed once again over an MMOG-focused gaming culture which is already reported to have claimed the lives of some young people.

Korean newspapers claim that as many as a dozen people have died in the country in recent years due to playing MMOGs obsessively and placing their bodies under strain by failing to sleep or eat properly. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially fatal condition most commonly found in passengers on long-haul flights, has also been linked to some deaths in Korea's internet cafes.

Defenders of the games point out that they are used widely as social networking tools by their users, and form a core part of how many young Koreans socialise and meet one another.

And of course, with a mobile title, the game can be played anywhere rather than tying users to their PCs - so the health risks of becoming addicted to the game are significantly reduced.

However, even Com2us admits that obsessive behaviour is already emerging among players of Imo: The World of Magic.

"Some users play the game even in the middle of the night. They complain they need a broader game map than we currently have," the firm's PR manager Park Sung-jin, told the Korea Times. "The way they play the game is beyond our expectations.'"

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