Nexon fined nearly $9M for falsifying loot box drop rates

A report from the Korean Economic Daily says Nexon has been slapped with a fine of ₩11.6 billion ($8.85 million) by Korea’s Fair Trade Commission for changing the drop rates of items in MapleStory and Bubble Fighter “multiple times” between the years 2010 and 2021, without telling anyone that the changes had been made.

Cubes, as they’re known in MapleStory, are randomized items costing roughly ₩2,000 ($1.50) each that are used to change or upgrade the power of in-game equipment. They were added to the game in May 2010, according to the report, shortly after which Nexon began messing with the drop rates so more powerful Cubes would appear less often.

It continued changing the odds until March 2021, in some cases ensuring that particularly high-demand Cubes didn’t drop at all, but did not notify players of the changes—in fact, in August 2011 Nexon released a statement saying that no changes had been made.

Loot box drop rates was a major hot topic several years ago: In 2017, China imposed a law requiring all game makers to reveal their loot box drop rates, and a couple years later major publishers in North America, facing growing pressure from the US government, followed suit. Knowing the drop rates is the only way players can have any idea how likely it is that they’re going to get something good for their money (and thus, at least in theory, how aggressively they should keep throwing money at it), which is what makes it such a big deal—but of course that usefulness is dependent upon the information being accurate, which according to the KFTC was not the case here.

This isn’t the first time Nexon has been fined by the KFTC for messing around with drop rates: In 2018 it ate a ₩939 million fine ($875,000 at the time) for misleading Sudden Attack 2 players about loot box drop rates. That’s partly why this new fine is the largest ever imposed by the commission for a violation of South Korea’s Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce Act.

“We imposed the largest fine because the Cube is a core product of [MapleStory], the violation period is long, and this is the second violation [by Nexon] following Sudden Attack,” Korea Fair Trade Commission market surveillance department director Kim Jung-ki said.

Nexon said it accepted the KFTC’s decision but may challenge it, according to the report. I’ve reached out to Nexon for more information and will update if I receive a reply.

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