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South Korea fines game studios over deceptive loot box odds

They allegedly misled players about the odds of obtaining in-game items.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
April 10, 2018
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The uproar over in-game loot boxes is leading to some real financial penalties -- in South Korea. The country's Fair Trade Commission has fined Nexon, Netmarble and NextFloor a total of 1 billion won (about $945,200) for allegedly deceptive loot box promotions. The regulator asserted that each of the studios either hid poor odds for obtaining in-game items with the purchases, or else advertised odds that were out of step with reality. Nexon didn't reveal that the chances of obtaining some in-game items in Sudden Attack (a popular first-person shooter) was just 0.5 percent, for example, while Netmarble's Monster Taming pitched odds of 1 percent for a key creature when the actual chance of winning was as low as 0.0005 percent.

The problem, of course, is that this can lead to some gamers spending inordinate amounts of money to get items that are far more elusive than they seem. In one case, the Commission noted that a Sudden Attack player spent about $430.

Not surprisingly, the companies aren't entirely happy. Nexon wants an "additional review" of the issue. Netmarble has apologized and made changes, but said it would "decide its response" after looking at the Commission's full decision.

While this case doesn't have much immediate bearing on other countries, it reflects the concerns many gamers and legislators have regarding loot boxes. They're worried that companies are overly dependent on loot boxes for profit, to the point where some titles base progression around them -- and more than a few people have described them as glorified gambling mechanisms. There might not be much of a need for fines elsewhere when some developers are already pulling these systems from their games, but the Korean action might hasten that retreat.

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