Sports games and sports licensing go hand in hand. You can’t imagine a sports game without real-life professionals or sports teams. EA Sports mimics the real-life sports environment.
Baseball is a popular sport in Korea along with soccer. Especially after World Baseball Classic 2009, attendance soared by 30% and set new record high above 5,920,000.
Naturally, online baseball games are also in high demand. In Korea, there are two major baseball online games; Slugger (MLB Dugout Heroes:eng) from Neowiz Games and Ma9 (aka Magumagu or 마구마구: kor) from CJ Internet.
CJ Internet’s Ma9 signed a three-year sponsorship deal with KBOP, a subsidiary of Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), and took on sponsorship of Korean baseball league for the first time as online gaming company. The league’s official name dubbed as 2009 CJ Magumagu Pro Baseball League. This was an unprecedented move from both sides and made people think twice about online games.
However, a power struggle brewed between two companies over the KBO license. Neowiz Games’ Slugger signed a licensing deal with KBOP since 2007 and had used team’s logo, mascots, and player portraits. Early this year, however, CJ Internet made an exclusive licensing agreement with KBOP as taking Neowiz Games out of competition. The odds of Neowiz Games renewing its license in 2010 look slim. In response to such action, Neowiz Games filed a complaint to Korea Fair Trade Commission and is now waiting for a result.
This is a very sensitive issue because Slugger is outdoing Ma9 in Korea. If?Slugger can’t use any real-life player portraits anymore, it will probably have a negative impact on sales.
NC Japan will be publishing Neowiz Games’ baseball game, Slugger, in Japan. The title is changed to Perfect9 in Japan so now it has all different names for different regions; MLB Dugout Heroes for North America, 슬러거 for Korea, 紅不讓 online for Taiwan.
Perfect9 CBT begins on August 18th. Hope they won’t have any problem with retired player from NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) like they have in Korea. (see “Online Baseball games sued by retired players“)
Four baseball game developers and publishers in Korea got sued by thirteen retired baseball players who claimed the companies have been using their names and in-game characters without players’ permission. Those company include 1) the developer of?Ma9 (마구마구: Kor)?AniPark, and 2) the Korean publisher ?CJ Internet and 3) the developer of?Slugger (MLB Dugout Heroes: Eng) Wise Cat, and 4) the Korean publisher Neowiz.
Looks like AniPark and CJ Internet has been aware of this portrait right controversy. During the last June update, they changed names of retired MLB players from full name to first name plus last name initial. The reason behind those changes was the companies don’t have rights to use retired players’ names based on the contract with MLBAD (MLB Advanced Media).
Neowiz Games has come a long way. Neowiz Games impressed the industry with a profit of 16.3 billion Won (approx. US$ 12.6 million) in the first quarter of 2009, a whopping 145% increase over the 6.7 billion Won (approx. US$ 5 million) it earned during the same period in 2008 and a 27% increase from the previous quarter. Revenue has risen 15% to 58.3 billion Won (approx. US$ 44.9 million) from the previous quarter.
The company is attributing the overall rise to the increasing profitability of its blockbuster sports and FPS games such as FIFA Online 2, Slugger, Special Force, and A.V.A as well as its international businesses.