Big money sees illegal online games mushroom in Vietnam

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Young people play online games at an Internet shop in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

The government tries to limit the social impact of online games by giving no new licenses for several years now, but many of the popular games on the market simply do not bother to get one.

Tuoi Tre newspaper Sunday cited figures from the Ministry of Information and Communication showing that of more than 200 online games played in Vietnam, only 76 are licensed.

Sieu Sao Software Company in Ho Chi Minh City offers more than 10 massive multiplayer role-playing games at game5.vn, a major web game portal, but none has a license.

Hanoi-based Tam Tay JSC has many illegal role-playing games at gamekiemhiep.vn.

NCT Corporation, an Internet content provider based in HCMC, is a leading games provider, channeling more than 20 illegal online games from other distributors and attracting millions of players to its website.

A number of Chinese games are also available illegally.

The ministry since 2010 has given no new licenses to online game and also ordered limited advertisements for them on the media, fearful of their impact on young people.

But the number of game distributors and new games has only been increasing, with NCT, Sieu Sao, and Tam Tay being incorporated after rules came into effect.

Digital engineers and people in the business say distributors of web games "have been mushrooming" in Vietnam, and this is easy to understand given the profits involved.

A game can fetch at least VND500 million (US$24,000) a month, and this has motivated many to break or skirt the law to create and distribute games in Vietnam, they add.

The Ministry of Public Security Saturday arrested three executives of Sunsoft Digital and Telecommunication Service Company for providing illegal online games in southern and central Vietnam, revealing that the company has been earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the business.

The company is based in the central town of Hue and has a branch in HCMC. 

A source from a web game distributor, who did not want to be named, said most distributors first disguise their products as Vietnamese versions of foreign games since foreign games were immune to regulations until the end of 2011.

"But they have become more brazen, providing Vietnamese-labeled games without a license," the source said, noting that demand keeps increasing thanks to promotion on many forums.

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