MIR4, developed by South Korea-based WeMade, is a highly popular mobile, massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Since being released in Korea last November, it has ranked first on numerous app stores’ most-downloaded lists, such as those of Naver’s Onestore and Samsung’s Galaxy Store.

Its global edition was launched Aug. 26, including elements of play-to-earn cryptocurrencies and NFT (non-fungible token) trading. Play-to-earn is the latest business model in the digital gaming industry, based on the concept of an open economy, which gives players that contribute to the game financial benefits. 

MIR4’s global edition initially launched in 170 countries and in 12 languages, with an in-game chat translation function so users communicate with users in other countries. In less than a week since the release, the number of global servers more than tripled, from 11 global servers to 38. Also, the global game platform “Steam” ranked MIR4 23rd on its most-played list, with a peak of 22,208 concurrent players as of Sept. 1.

On global servers, users can trade “black iron,” which is an in-game goods that players earn by playing the game, into a utility token named DRACO. The DRACO coin can be traded in WEMIX DEX, a DeFi (Decentralized Finance) exchange under WeMade. Further, players of MIR4 global can convert their game characters into NFTs, which can also be traded in WeMade’s cold wallet app, WEMIX Wallet’s NFT market. 

Players on MIR4’s South Korean home servers, however, are denied the elements of crypto or NFTs. On MIR4’s Korean servers, users cannot exchange in-game goods with crypto or turn their characters into NFTs.

Korea’s Game Rating and Administration Committee does not allow blockchain-based games domestically. At a policy meeting in July entitled “The Future of Blockchain Games in Korea,” the committee asserted that enabling in-game goods to be traded for cryptocurrencies can encourage speculative behaviors. Blockchain-based game developers argue that the games should at least be reviewed individually, and that it is discriminatory to ban all games for incorporating blockchain elements.

Mobile game players in South Korea view this ban on play-to-earn crypto games as a lost opportunity. Yoo Ho-joong, a 25-year-old mobile game enthusiast, told Forkast.News: “I feel the exceptionally strict gaming regulations in Korea is taking away the chance for Korean gamers to join in the new paradigm of play-to-earn,” adding that speculative behavior in gaming is already prevalent amongst gamers in Korea as they use out-of-game exchanges to trade and liquidate their in-game items. 

Korea is not the only country in the region that sets limits on gaming. China recently caused quite an upheaval by further limiting the number of hours minors can play games online. Beijing’s new regulations ban minors under the age of 18 from playing online games from Monday to Thursday. It only allowed an hour per day on Fridays, weekends and public holidays. 

On the other hand, Axie Inifinity, a play-to-earn game developed by Vietnam-based Sky Mavis, has grown hugely popular, gaining sizable followings in the Philippines, Venezuela, Cuba, India and other places. Last month, the game’s founder announced that there are more than a million daily active players, with the company’s NFT market trading volume hitting US$1 billion.

As seen in Axie Infinity and MIR4 global’s popularity, the global market demand for blockchain-based games is high. Despite the persistent ban within South Korea, the country’s blockchain-based games like MIR4 seem likely to continue to grow in the global market.