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Korea's Game Rating Board, Publishers Clash Over 'Jackpot Items'

The South Korean government's Game Rating Board (GRB) says MMO publishers aren't cooperating with its investigation on whether "jackpot items" -- in-game purchases for random virtual goods -- classify as gambling.
The South Korean government's Game Rating Board (GRB) says MMO publishers aren't cooperating with its investigation on whether "jackpot items" -- in-game purchases for random virtual goods -- classify as gambling. GRB wants to evaluate the items to see if they are only available by cash, or if they can also be acquired for free. It's sent out requests to 10 MMO companies for details on their jackpot items: Neowiz, Smile Gate, CJ, WeMade, NCsoft, Actoz Soft, Mgame, NHN, Nexon, and HanbitSoft. According to a report on Korean industry news site This Is Game, those companies have freely provided requested information such as jackpot item names, currency used for those item purchases, items costs, and the features/value of those items. But the developers are reportedly withholding information on their items' payout percentages -- the number of purchases a player would typically make to receive them -- arguing that those items are part of a business model, and not subject to ratings concerns. "Game companies ask us why GRB tries to touch their business model, and refuse our request," said GRB chairman SooKeun Lee. "But the jackpot item is part of the content in a game. We don’t care if they do it outside of the game, but what matters to us is that it is a part of the game." South Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism plans to enact new guidelines for gambling in online games, such as limiting the maximum amount of money players can bet, "responsibilities on personal confirmation," limits on payment methods, and more. It would also prohibit auto-betting systems.

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