Nexon Korea Corp has been issued with the largest fine ever for violating South Korea’s Act on Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce in games such as MapleStory. The data makes it clear that users were knowingly misled, but the fine seems insignificant in light of the profits.
Game developer and publisher Nexon is known for several titles among various online communities, but the most popular is, without a doubt, MapleStory. In this 2D side-scrolling MMO, players battle against monsters and bosses to claim the best loot possible so they can be crowned as the most valiant warriors in all the land. The bulk of MapleStory’s revenue is generated from microtransactions, and the items players get from these in this and other games are the reason the company has been handed such a hefty fine.
Related: How to Level up Fast in MapleStory
Nexon Microtransaction Fine Explained
As reported by The Korea Economic Daily, Nexon has been fined 11.6 billion won, roughly $8.9 million, for allegedly misleading players of MapleStory and Bubble Fighter regarding in-game transactions. The fine was issued by the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC).
Nexon, which happens to be the largest shareholder in Nexon Games Co., was accused of altering the probability of players drawing what is deemed as the best items in their games. These items are commonly referred to as Cubes, but it’s not only their drop rates that Nexon is said to have altered. Allegedly, the company also altered the rate of success for these items to zero, ensuring they never work, even for players who have them.
To better explain this, it helps to know what Cubes do. These items are either pieces of equipment players have to pay to get or items that reset the potential of equipment players own. One of the best items and effects on equipment has a chance to drop boss damage to almost nothing, and this, among other effects, is what was manually changed by Nexon, never to succeed.
The result renders all the most powerful items and equipment in the games useless because hidden amongst their many lines of flavor text is a line stating that they have a guaranteed chance of working of 0%.
The investigation leading to Nexon’s fine found that the items had a higher percentage of success as of May 2010 but had been changed to 0% by September 2010. On the surface, it looks like Nexon saw where players were spending the most money and altered the odds to make them spend more. The KFTC found evidence that Nexon had even told players in August 2011 that no changes had been made to Cubes, hiding the behavior.
The KFTC estimates that Nexon has generated 550 billion won between May 2010 and March 2021. The fine Nexon has been hit with is 2% of that revenue, which seems low in light of how much money the company must have made, but also because this is the second time it’s been caught misleading players, which has resulted in a fine.
Fans on the Games Subreddit couldn’t believe how small the fine was compared to the money earned. Many of them are MapleStory players who are all too aware of the changes that were made. When giving examples, it makes the change in odds seem so much more malicious. “If I recall correctly, the main issue was that you could reroll sub stats on equipment, and something like increased dmg% on the boss was considered the best in the slot, and having all three substate slots be that was the best you could do. But Nexon didn’t disclose that after you hit your second substat as the BIS stat, the chance it will appear in the 3rd slot was 0. Over the years, many, many people spent real money to reroll like crazy, not knowing what they were chasing was impossible.”
Many games rely on microtransactions to supplement development and server costs over time. Call of Duty is just one example of where the costs seem astronomical for what players get, but the fan base is more than willing to pay them.
In most cases of microtransactions, though, there’s a level of trust that players will either get or be in with a chance of getting something they’re desperate to own. What Nexon is accused of doing is removing all chances, equating to taking money for nothing as if its games are conning players.