Korea’s Game Rating and Administration Committee (GRAC) shut down Facebook games.
On August 26th, with very little fanfare, stop payments were placed on games like Candy Crush Saga, limiting players from spending money on micro-transactions. By Friday, all Facebook games were blocked domestically until they receive a rating from GRAC.
The move appears to be motivated as part of an effort to crackdown on social casino games. Gambling is illegal in most of Korea but online and mobile social casino games have been left alone so far. Rather than target one group of games, it appears the committee has attempted to bring all Facebook games in line with Game Industry Promotion Act that was established in December 2013.
Under the act, games must be rated by a panel of nine people that includes professors, attorneys, and NGO members. Decisions place games in one of four categories:
All: games that can be enjoyed by anybody.
12+: games that should not be used by minors under 12 years of age.
15+: games that should not be used by minors under 15 years of age.
Adult only: games that should not be accessed by minors or youths.
Not surprisingly, there is a fee for developers to get their games rated.
Games are supposed to receive their ratings within 15 days of filing their application, but there is no word yet on when the Facebook games will return. Companies that fail to act swiftly in getting their applications to the board are facing serious harm to their revenue and user retention.
This is not the first time government regulation over game ratings has caused problems in Korea’s game industry. Starcraft II was delayed after receiving the ‘Adults Only’ rating in 2010.