North Korea’s unlikely game developer industry revealed

Bloomberg has an interesting story on North Korea’s little known games development industry. Asia has become a hugely popular region for outsourced development – thanks to reduced labour charges and a growing pool of development talent across the continent – but North Korea, with limited access to the internet and technology is possibly the last place one would expect game development.

According to the article, as below, two News Corp games were developed in North Korea:

Programmers from North Korea’s General Federation of Science and Technology developed a 2007 mobile-phone bowling game based on the 1998 film [The Big Lebowski], as well as “Men in Black: Alien Assault,” according to two executives at Nosotek Joint Venture Company, which markets software from North Korea for foreign clients. Both games were published by a unit ofNews Corp., the New York-based media company, a spokeswoman for the unit said.

They represent a growing software industry championed by Kim that is boosting the economy of one of the poorest countries in the world and raising the technological skills of workers. Contracting with North Korean companies is legal under United Nations sanctions unless they are linked to the arms trade.

The rest of the article goes into more detail and is a definitely worth reading here.

As you’d expect the news has generated a lot of interest and surprise, here are just a few examples:

Bloomberg’s headline: 

Kim Jong Il Bowls for Murdoch Dollars With Korea Video Games

Comment from Will Moss (@imagethief), a high profile PR/tech commentator in Asia:

On that story, on some level, have to admire ruthless pragmatism: Axis of evil is no good unless they can supply bargain-priced coding.

Comment from Louisa Lim (@limlouisa) NPR Beijing Correspondent:

Today’s surreal business story: North Korea develops Big Lebowski Bowling mobile phone game. Huh?