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South Korean Developers Fined Over Deceptive Loot Box Practices

Sudden attack on loot boxes

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Ever since the loot box debacle of 2017, we saw various government agencies starting to look into the issue. But South Korea is one step ahead by slapping its game developers with a fine over unfair loot box practices.

Developers Nexon, Netmarble and NextFloor have been issued a 1 billion won (around RM3,623,500) for deceptive loot box promotions by the Korean Fair Trade Comission. Nexon gets the biggest of the share, with 939 million won worth of penalty and a 5.5 million won fine. Netmarble received a 45 million won penalty and a 15 million won fine whereas NextFloor only received 5 million won of fine.

The alleged unfair use of loot boxes comes down to hiding the drop rates of specific in-game items in the loot boxes. One such example is in Nexon’s Sudden Attack, where an in-game event called “Celebrity Count” enables players to collect a 16-piece puzzle to unlock special advantages. There is a specific loot box purchasable to unlock two puzzle pieces each time, yet the drop rate of a certain puzzle piece could go as low as 0.5 percent.

Netmarble and NextFloor also deceived their drop rates for the various in-game events their games are running, according to the Korea Herald.

“The randomized in-game items have been constantly stirring up controversy amid criticism that they are similar to gambling,” an official in charge of e-commerce division at the Korea Fair Trade Comission said, speaking to The Korea Times.

“By penalizing game developers’ false and exaggerated information on the odds of receiving such items, we made it clear that the game companies have the responsibility to provide the right information based on which consumers can determine their purchase.”

Nexon Korea is expected to appeal this decision. Whatever the case, this is the first step of many on the regulation of loot boxes, which will make it even more harder for publishers and developers to make games where the flow of revenue is generating from it, for better or worse.