South Korea Fines Free-To-Play Game Publishers For Shady Loot Box Practices

The Fair Trade Commission has also required the companies review and reform their monetization practices.

2

Loot boxes and microtransactions have been under a microscope for the last year, even requiring a new ESRB warning. South Korea's Fair Trade Commission has taken action against three publishers for violating the electronic commerce act by offering up misleading odds for loot boxes in their games. Such a move will serve as a warning to any publisher or developer planning to cash in on loot crates and microtransactions down the line.

Establishments have discussed if loot boxes and microtransactions should exist under gambling rules, protecting the younger demographic that largely make the practices profitable for developers and publishers. Their implementation in many mobile games and some console titles is seen as predatory and South Korea is taking action on a few of the biggest F2P game publishers in the industry. Gamasutra reports via The Korea Herald that Nexon Korea, Netmarble, and NextFloor all received fines.

Nexon Korea, which was fined $882,700, is responsible for titles like Lawbreakers, MapleStory, and Korea's version of Counter-Strike. Netmarble was fined $14,100 and released games like Star Wars: Force Arena and Marvel: Future Fight. NextFloor is behind Destiny Child and was fined $4,700.

Gamasutra's report claims the fines were specifically targeting how the companies promoted the random loot boxes and required that they all review and reform their monetization practices. The FTC claims Nexon's campaign specifically implied the crates all had an even chance of dropping, which wasn't accurate.

"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," said the company. "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."

Nothing of this magnitude has happened in the American market and there's no telling if will influence any US developers or publishers at all, but it will likely be a part of the conversation when deciding how to implement these systems. No entity has fined them outright, but EA has had to completely overhaul their loot box system because consumers voting with their dollars pushed them to do so. Stay tuned to Shacknews to see how this further unfolds.

Charles Singletary Jr keeps the updates flowing as the News Editor, breaking stories while investigating the biggest topics in gaming and technology. He's pretty active on Twitter, so feel free to reach out to him @The_CSJR. Got a hot tip? Email him at Charles.Singletary@Shacknews.com.

From The Chatty