What happens to Diablo III? South Korea bans trade of virtual goods

It looks like Diablo III came out right at a moment when Korea’s government was getting super serious about not letting online games and loot control people’s lives. Online games are causing trouble in the world’s most connected country. With 93 percent of the population connected to the Internet, it’s more important than ever to make sure that people aren’t wasting time out there. No more looking at funny pictures of cats or sending each other YouTube videos of Bel Biv Devoe videos, you kids! No more trading virtual goods either.

The Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism announced on Wednesday that, later this year, the trade of commercial game items will be banned in Korea. No more loot farming.

The news comes to us from The Korea Times. The report said that the government is moving to ban the virtual goods trade because it’s causing students to waste time. Ministry content policy division chief Kim Kap-soo said, “The main purpose of the games is for entertainment and should be used for academic and other good purposes.” In short, the game should just be for blowing off steam, not making a living.

How will the ban actually affect people playing and making games? For starters, setting up an automated program to go into a game to farm loot or gold will be illegal. Anyone caught setting up a system to farm goods for sale will be sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined 50 million won, nearly $43,000.

Arcade games fall under the purview of the law as well. Game makers and arcade management can no longer claim virtual goods as property or distribute vouchers for in game goods. In both cases, the virtual goods in question could be sold for actual money.

Putting aside the impossible task of actually trying to enforce the ban, it’s time to ask the big question: How will the ban affect Diablo III and its controversial auction house? Doesn’t the existence of the for-cash auction house automatically imply that some players will be intentionally trawling the game looking for next big score?

Blizzard is already facing off with cheaters trying to trick the system. The game’s Korean Diablo III servers were taken offline on Sunday after reports of item duplication surfaced in the official forums. Will making certain types of cheating illegal in Korea help Blizzard combat the problem? Will government officials be forced to raid Blizzard’s offices again?

As the kids are wont to say, games are serious business.

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