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South Korea's flagship game trade show kicked off in the southeastern port city of Busan on Thursday with hundreds of avid gamers lining up for the event that drew a record number of game houses.
The G-Star Global Game Exhibition began its four-day run at the BEXCO convention center with 434 game-related firms from 31 countries attending the annual event in its eighth year.
Young gamers, mostly boys in their teens, flocked to see exhibitions of arcade, console, mobile and online games as high school classes were canceled for the national college entrance exam held once a year.
More than 2,100 booths filled the arena, with 274 local players and 160 foreign companies taking part in the 2012 edition of South Korea's biggest game show, according to the Korea Association of Game Industry and Busan IT Industry Promotion Agency that organized the fair.
Among the participants were big-name home players such as Nexon as well as up-and-coming mobile game developers such as Gamevil and Com2us.
Overseas game houses such as Blizzard Entertainment and Sega returned to the annual event, while the Korean unit of Japanese game giant Nintendo made its debut to showcase portable game players.
Visitors line up to enter the 2012 G-star Global Game Exhibition in Busan on Nov. 8 (Photo courtesy of organizers)
Meanwhile, the country's major mobile carriers also attended the event in a bid to bolster their game businesses. SK Planet, the affiliate of top mobile carrier SK Telecom Co., debuted at the event to promote its game platform, while No. 3 mobile carrier LG Uplus Corp. is slated to hold a seminar for game developers Friday to pitch its cloud gaming system.
While blockbuster online games such as "Bless" and "FIFA Online 3" drew crowds, emerging mobile games also lured players with booths packed with dozens of Samsung smartphones and Apple iPads.
Mirroring the growing popularity of mobile games, developers of "Anipang" and "Candy Pang" set up bigger-than-life versions of their popular smartphone games where visitors could face off in one-to-one rounds.
Despite regulatory hurdles aimed at protecting adolescent gamers, South Korea is home to one of the world's most thriving game markets. The 8.8 trillion won (US$8.1 billion) local game industry is expected to top 10 trillion won this year and reach 15 trillion won by 2014, according to the data by the Korea Creative Contents Agency.
South Koreans under the age of 16 are prohibited from playing online games between midnight and 6 a.m. under the government's so-called "shut down" policy, a move which has sparked fierce backlash from game developers and gamers.