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Nexon fined over drop rate manipulation in MapleStory

Company changed the drop odds for items without disclosure
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Nexon, one of the biggest gaming companies in South Korea, has been fined for a sum of ₩11.6 billion Won (around $8.88 million USD) by the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) for failing to disclose changes of item drop rates in MapleStory to players (via Business Korea).

Items called Cubes were introduced to the game in 2010. They are purchasable equipment modifications that can have different effects and attributes, which are generated randomly upon buying them. Cubes initially featured equal appearance rates for all possible attributes. However, Nexon quietly reduced the drop odds for the most popular (and powerful) characteristics to 0.00001%, making it essentially impossible to get them. Not only did Nexon not disclose this change, it continued to publicly maintain that nothing about the drop rates had been changed after the Cubes were introduced.

Maplestory screenshot showing small 2D cartoon characters fighting a big demon-like creature in an icy cave.

MapleStory is a side-scrolling 2D MMORPG.

Estimates say that the sale of Cubes accounted for around a third of MapleStory’s revenue over the ten years during which these nigh-impossible odds were active.

According to the KFTC, Nexon used clandestine patches on other occasions as well to change the game to be more disadvantageous to users, such as by quietly lowering the effectiveness of certain equipment.

Nexon seemingly doesn't regret this blatant anti-consumer behavior and instead intends to object to the KFTC’s decision, stating: "This issue pertains to the period before 2016 when there was no obligation to disclose information about probability-based items. The KFTC’s retrospective sanctions will greatly shrink Korea’s gaming industry."

This is the highest fine ever decided upon by the KFTC under Korea’s Electronic Commerce Act and is the result of an investigation that took the authorities three years to conduct. "The most important information in probability-based items is the odds. As digital intangible goods, if the seller does not announce or falsely reports this information, consumers cannot be aware," the KFTC explained.

Aside from MapleStory, Nexon is also the publisher of titles like Dave the Diver, which just cracked the three million sales milestone, and popular free-to-play shooter The Finals (via its subsidiary Embark Studios), which launched during The Game Awards 2023.