Three game companies, including free-to-play giant Nexon, have been penalized by South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission over the use of loot boxes. Nexon, NextFloor and Netmarble have been fined a total of around $1 million over deceptive in-game item sales, mostly focusing on loot boxes. The lion’s share of the burden falls on Nexon, who were fined $875,000.
The reason Nexon was included in the sweep was due to a recent event in their game, Sudden Attack 2. In the “Celebrity Count” event, players could pay around 900 won (~$0.85) to receive a randomized loot box. Within that box were, in addition to other in-game items, two random puzzle pieces. There were 16 of these pieces to collect. Problem is, some of them were so rare that they were nearly impossible to obtain without spending large sums of money. One user spent nearly $450 attempting to obtain the rarest pieces, the ones that had a less than 1% chance of dropping overall.
Nexon attempted to shift blame, saying the following:
“In our puzzle event, we used the phrase ‘random provision’ to suggest the items would be provided at random, and that the odds of obtaining each puzzle piece were different,” the statement from Nexon Korea read. “However, the FTC interpreted the phrase as suggesting equal odds. We plan to work on obtaining an additional review of this issue in the future.”
Nexon seems to think that they shouldn’t have had to disclose those odds in the first place, despite them being ludicrously unfair.
More and more loot box peddlers are feeling the sting of both player outrage and regulator crackdowns, and it’s only a matter of time before western developers get themselves into a situation like the one Nexon dug themselves into.