Antitrust regulator hits Nexon Korea with record fine for deceptive practices

Meanwhile the company hits back, challenging the regulator's decision, claiming that its explanation has not been fully acknowledged

Antitrust regulator hits Nexon Korea with record fine for deceptive practices

Korean antitrust regulator has imposed a fine of 11.6 billion won ($8.85 million) on Nexon Korea. This penalty stems from accusations of deceptive business practices concerning in-game items targeted at players.

According to The Korea Times, the gaming company faced allegations of altering the odds of randomised items in its popular titles, MapleStory and Bubble Fighter, which favoured the company and were implemented without user awareness across an extensive periond from 2010 to 2021, potentially violating consumer protection regulations.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) reported that in August 2011, Nexon went as far as issuing a false statement claiming that no alterations had been made to the games' program despite evidence to the contrary.

“Nexon made announcements about changes to the games hundreds of times from 2010-21, but it omitted the information about the probability adjustment," said the regulator. “Our judgment is that the company had aimed to lure customers by giving them false information and used deceptive means."

A call for stricter oversight?

The fine imposed on Nexon marked the highest amount ever levied by the regulator for violations of the act. This fine also signals a potential catalyst for heightened regulatory scrutiny in the gaming industry. While the punitive measure underscores a growing commitment to enforcing fair practices and protecting consumer rights, there have been discussions of South Korea considering a licensing system similar to China's to better police online games.

Meanwhile China itself continues to tighten its watch on its games industry with the threat of new regulations wiping billions off stock values in the past two weeks.

In 2020, Nexon Korea generated 560 billion won in sales from MapleStory, with approximately 28 per cent of the annual sales attributed to the in-game item program, as per the FTC's data. The game company says that it accepts the FTC's decision and “Deeply apologises to the game users for disappointing them."

"MapleStory is an iconic K-game that has been enjoyed by 190 million cumulative members in more than 110 countries around the world for 20 years," said Nexon Korea. “It is difficult to predict the damage that the FTC's retroactive action will cause to Korean game companies in the highly competitive global content market."

The company aims to challenge the regulator's decision or pursue legal action, asserting that its explanation has not been fully acknowledged and that gaming publishers were not obligated to disclose information about probabilities at the time.

Staff Writer

Isa Muhammad is a B2B writer and video games journalist with 5+ years experience covering games, interviewing industry professionals, tracking industry trends and understanding the market.