Nexon, the developer behind the beloved online game MapleStory, has been fined a monumental ₩11.6 billion (approximately $8.7 million) by the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC). This punitive action comes after findings that the company allegedly manipulated loot box odds without informing its players, a serious breach of trust in the online gaming community.
The KFTC’s investigation concluded that Nexon had altered the drop rates of ‘Cubes,’ which are paid items designed to enhance in-game equipment in both MapleStory and Bubble Fighter. The commission found that not only were the rates changed without proper notice, but at times, the likelihood of obtaining the most sought-after items was reduced to zero. Despite this, Nexon claimed in August 2011 that no such adjustments had been made.
The act of acquiring these Cubes, which cost around ₩2000 per attempt, has been likened to gambling on a slot machine, emphasizing the random and chance-based nature of loot boxes.
This is not Nexon’s first transgression with the KFTC. The company was previously fined ₩944.5 million (over half a million pounds) for similar practices in their game Sudden Attack in 2018. However, the recent fine dwarfs the previous one and marks the largest penalty imposed for violations of South Korea’s Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce Act.
Kim Jung-ki, the director of the market surveillance department of the KFTC, stated, “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.”
In response to the ruling, Nexon released a statement expressing regret and apologizing to their user base for the disappointment caused. While the company has accepted the KFTC’s decision, it also indicated a potential challenge to the ruling, hinting at the possibility of taking the issue to court.
The substantial fine reflects a growing global concern over the transparency and fairness of loot box mechanics in online games. As governments and regulatory bodies intensify scrutiny on these practices, gaming companies like Nexon are being held accountable for ensuring fair play and clear communication with their players.
The ramifications of this fine may be felt industry-wide, as developers and publishers reassess their in-game monetization strategies to avoid similar punitive repercussions.