MapleStory publisher Nexon fined record $8.9 million for misleading loot box mechanics

By admin Jan 5, 2024

Korean publisher Nexon have been fined 11.6 billion won – around $8.9 million – for secretly altering the drop rates of coveted items in free-to-play MMO gacha game MapleStory. The fine, issued by the Korea Fair Trade Commission, is the largest penalty ever doled out for violation of South Korea’s Act on Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce.

As reported by the Korean Economic Daily, the KFTC say that over the past decade or so, Nexon have lowered the probability of players drawing certain character equipment when spending real cash on “Cubes” in MapleStory. Each Cube sells for about 2000 won (or $1.50 under current conversion rates). They all have different effects, but according to the report, they all had the same probability of dropping back in May 2010, when Nexon introduced the Cube mechanic.

From September 2010, however, Nexon began fiddling with the odds of certain Cubes appearing. Between August 2011 to March 2021, the company are said to have changed the probability structure so that certain much-desired options don’t appear at all. In the same period, Nexon raked in billions from sales of Cubes. Not only did the company fail to notify players of the changes – the KFTC alleges that in August 2011, Nexon outright told players that no such changes had been made.

“We imposed the largest fine because the Cube is a core product of the game (Maple Story), the period of the violation is long and this is the second violation (by Nexon) following Sudden Attack,” said Kim Jung-ki, director of the market surveillance department of the Korea Fair Trade Commission. The first violation saw Nexon paying out 939 million won for misleading Sudden Attack players about certain lottery items.

Nexon have yet to say much in public about all this, but are apparently thinking about challenging the commission’s decision, or even taking them to court.

It’s the latest salvo in a lengthy battle between governments worldwide and game publishers over gambling-style microtransaction mechanics and their effects on children and other vulnerable people. In 2018, Belgium’s Gaming Commission ruled that loot boxes in games like Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were effectively gambling mechanics and would need to be removed, though one study has found that the rules aren’t being properly enforced.

The EU parliament recommended industry-wide reforms in January 2023, while Australia introduced new age rating classifications for games with loot boxes and simulated gambling mechanics in March 2023. In July last year, the UK games industry agreed to restrict access to loot boxes for under-18 players following government pressure.

By admin

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