Last week, every Facebook game stopped working in South Korea. And they’re not coming back until the country’s government can apply its rating system.
On Aug. 29, Candy Crush Saga, FarmVille, and all other games on Facebook ceased functioning in South Korea. The nation blocked them as part of the enforcement of its Game Industry Promotion Act, which established a legally binding age-appropriateness rating system in December 2013 — although the country never went through steps of applying those guidelines on Facebook games until now. That legislation and the recent enforcement is part of a wider effort to implement control over social-casino games, but the country is also taking the opportunity to ensure everything on Facebook complies with its regulations.
These games, which players can longer access, make millions of dollars every year from microtransactions. With regulators cracking down, this is potentially costing publishers like King (Candy Crush) a lot of money.
We’ve reached out to South Korea’s regulators for more, and we’ll update this post with any new information.
If you’re wondering why South Korea suddenly pulled the plug on every Facebook game, it is likely attributable to the country’s stance on gambling. Casino gambling is highly controlled in South Korea, and the age-rating system, overseen by the Game Rating and Administrative Committee, gives the country’s officials a way to look at and approve certain casino games for specific age ranges before they even hit the market. Social-casino experiences on Facebook and mobile emulate real casinos where players can pay to buy more chips or other kinds of virtual currencies, but the games don’t provide a way for players to win actual money.
Under the new guidelines, developers and publishers will have the chance to get their products back up on Facebook if they submit the software to the ratings board. After 15 days, a nine-person panel (comprised of professors, attorneys, and non-government organization representatives) will determine if a game fits into one of the four following categories: All, 12+, 15+, or Adult Only. To take part in the process, developers and publishers do have to pay a fee.
While developers wait around for regulators, they are losing out on revenue. The country is one of the biggest gaming markets in the world. While smartphone and PC gaming is dominant in South Korea, social games can still generate significant cash in that territory.