Sellers’ liability? Nexon to buy back virtual items in a game due for shutdown


According to Korea Times, MMO publisher Nexon “is preparing to repay users who own paid items” in ZerA, an unsuccessful Korean MMO that is due to be closed in January. The game was launched in 2006 and peaked at 40 000 concurrent users. According to Korea Times, ZerA took three years and 10 billion won (approx. 7.5 M USD) to develop. Plans to launch in Japan were dropped after lukewarm reception in Korea.

Earlier this year, game publisher Electronic Arts refunded users who had purchased virtual currency in EA Land, the successor of The Sims Online. EA Land was closed down soon after its introduction, but not before many users had purchased “simoleons”, a currency which EA had suggested would become exchangeable back to real money at a later date. EA apparently offered the refund only after demands from disappointed users.

I don’t know how much legal liability the operators had for the assets they sold in the above cases. Players probably signed away many of their rights when accepting the terms of service. Most likely these are just examples of two different kinds of customer relations management in that situation: pro-active care vs. reactive handling.

Let’s assume that either for legal reasons or simply because of a need to maintain good customer relations, an operator decides to refund the users of a virtual item platform it is about to close down. How far back in time should the refund extend? EA Land only existed for five months, so EA simply refunded all currency purchases (note that they also had non-refundable revenues from game time cards). How about platforms that have existed for some time, perhaps deriving most of their revenues from the asset sales?

With services like MapleStory and Cyworld, where assets have a limited duration, the operator can simply stop selling new assets and wait until the old ones expire before shutting the service down. What about services like Habbo, where items have perpetual duration? What is a reasonable lifespan that a user can expect an item to have?

If I don’t remember wrong, some years ago Habbo terms of service used to guarantee a two-week lifespan for items. Today they seem to be less explicit on the issue (and interestingly, the UK, Finnish and Japanese versions of the TOS seem at a glance quite different, perhaps reflecting local regulatory differences). In any case, I would think users would find 14 days too short. I am looking forward to details on Nexon’s ZerA refund.

(Korean Times story via PlayNoEvil)

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4 thoughts on “Sellers’ liability? Nexon to buy back virtual items in a game due for shutdown

  1. Has anyone followed the sluggish economy and very large unrest, and charges of fraud by Linden lab in the past Month?
    Here are links:

    Massively.com

    Chilly policy reception causes exceptional Second Life shrinkage

    by Tateru Nino Nov 12th 2008 at 9:00AM

    Filed under: Business models, Economy, News items, Second Life, Virtual worlds:
    Other posts

    * Linden Lab changes pricing/policy on void simulators (16 days ago – 33 Comments)
    * Linden Lab introduces new land product, changes for void simulators (7 days ago – 10 Comments)
    * Linden Lab CEO on openspace/void price increases (12 days ago – 13 Comments)
    * A brief history of void simulators/openspaces (8 days ago – 6 Comments)
    * Linden Lab responds to void simulator furor (13 days ago – 16
    Comments)

    http://jeanricardbroek-architect.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2008-11-02T22%3A54%3A00-05%3A00

    Go to the SL Forum and JIRA – Make your voice heard
    * Forum —— 2745 posts and 133,000 views as of 7:30 AM SLT 10/30
    * JIRA —— 3220 votes as of 7:30 AM SLT 10/30

  2. Interesting stuff, anon. Why don’t you post this as a thread on VERN’s new forum? I think it would be a more appropriate place. I wonder if we should make the forum more visible somehow.

    A forum thread is essentially the same as these blog posts and comments, except that they are shown on the forum page and can be posted by anyone (who has created an account).

  3. I tried to start a thread but could not log in after setting up an account. Access denied, I could not even send the following to you on the access denied page….

    I would like to see more serious research, study and above all empirical data and metrics on Second Life’s Multi-million US$ economy.

    You may want to make contacts with other researchers from Cornell, University of California, Germany, France, etc. Here are a few URLs of note re: the SL economy & research.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Life
    http://worlds.ruc.dk/index.php?page_id=3
    http://metanomics.net/
    http://www.elabcity.com/
    http://secondlife.com/whatis/economy_stats.php
    http://blog.secondlife.com/
    http://forums.secondlife.com/showthread.php?t=292421
    http://forums.secondlife.com/forumdisplay.php?f=354
    Openspace Announcement Discussion with Jack Linden 11-05-2008
    Posts 3,749 views 176,529

  4. I tried to start a thread but could not log in after setting up an account. Access denied, I could not even send the following to you on the access denied page….

    Thanks for your feedback, there may still be bugs on the site and we’re working on ironing them out. That said, I could not replicate your problem — I created a new account, checked my email for the password, logged in and successfully started a new thread on the forum. It would be very helpful to us if you could provide more details about the problem via email to vern@virtual-economy.org. Thanks!

    Also, thanks for the links! I made some additions to the Research links page.

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