More government agencies around the world are beginning to take note of loot boxes, the practice of selling randomized items with in-game transactions. Late last week The Korea Herald reported that several top South Korean game developers were fined a total of nearly $1 million for deceiving customers about the odds of attaining high-level loot.
The Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) hit Nexon Korea with a total of around $885,000 in fines, while Netmarble Games received fines of around $56,000. A third developer, called NextFloor, was fined only $4,700. All together, The Korean Herald said these fines add up to the “highest-ever penalties” handed down for violations of Korea’s electronic commerce act.
The FTC said that these three game developers misstated the odds of earning high-level loot. For instance, Nexon stated that some items would be given out “at random” while the actual odds of earning items was closer to .5 percent.
The loot box controversy peaked here in the United States during the holiday season when consumers rebelled against developer and publisher Electronic Arts over the loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2. The blowback was so bad that in-game purchases were turned off before the game formally launched. That led the game’s entire progression system being revamped. The entire episode drew attention of U.S. lawmakers and a new class of warning labels from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
South Korean and the U.S. lawmakers aren’t alone in looking closely at loot boxes. China now requires that developers reveal the odds of winning in-game items before players hand over any money.