The app store giants have been told to strip play-to-earn titles from their platforms – the latest move against NFT-based in-app items.
The South Korean government has told Apple and Google they must remove so-called play-to-earn (P2E) games from their respective app stores. P2E (known regionally as “money-making games”) refers to titles that feature in-app purchases in the form of blockchain-based NFTs. At first blush, the format might sound a lot like free-to-play games such as Among Us, Fortnite, or PUBG, which also feature in-app transactions. However, while those let players buy special skins or dance moves as an added feature, P2E titles typically require gamers to pay for items before they can start playing. And because those assets are NFTs, they hold an intrinsic value, which means users can sell, usually cashing them in via cryptocurrencies.
Gaming is extremely popular in South Korea, and mobile players spend an estimated $6 billion annually on handheld titles. Because of this, the nation’s government has taken a firm stance in regulating the games market, age-restricting titles such as Minecraft, and also limiting the value of gaming prizes. Indeed, it seems this rule — which limits in-game rewards to 10,000 Korean won (roughly $8.40) — was the trigger for even more red tape for game developers and distributors.
The Game Management Committee (GMC), a South Korean government agency, has told Apple, Google, and several other companies they must pull all P2E titles from their distribution platforms. In addition, GMC has informed the firms they cannot approve any new games that require in-app purchases as a condition of play. The move is somewhat unusual as a method of blocking offending titles, as the GMC already has the power to approve or deny the release of titles through its age rating system. However, an unnamed GMC spokesperson has told Cointelegraph such a process is unnecessary because proceeds from the sale of in-game NFTs “can be considered prizes.” Again, anything sold for over 10,000 Korean won would automatically flout existing laws.
Move Complicates Situation For Many Games
The action by the GMC comes as South Korean authorities are already tangling with several publishers. Games-maker SkyPeople has been tangling with regulators ever since its role-playing title Five Stars for Klaytn was blocked from release for not having an age rating. The firm was able to secure a court injunction, allowing it to launch the game on Google’s Play Store. Now, with the GMC’s latest decision, its future is in jeopardy once again.
The South Korean government has not explicitly discussed why it opposes games with NFT assets, especially considering it might be workable to cap the resale price of said digital items. Still, when discussing NFTs, it’s important to note the inherent energy consumption concerns, which may well have factored into the GMC’s decision. It’s of note that games platform Steam took a similar decision in the fall, though it remains unclear whether that was an altruistic or business choice. Whatever the reasoning, with Apple and Google now off-limits for many, the launch environment for P2E titles is certainly proving challenging.
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About The Author
Tom Wilton (65 Articles Published)
Tom is a writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker. He has covered the tech industry, business, and film for many years. He lives in New York City with his wife, cat, and dog.