Japanese-South Korean game company Nexon, which has a popular line of online games including KartRider, MapleStory and Mabinogi, now takes crypto as payment from players who want to equip their characters with cash items, along with the U.S. dollar. 

Most of its successful games were free-to-play, but players had access to in-game shops where they paid real money in exchange for better weapons, accessories or other privileges. Following its announcement on Tuesday. Nexon America started to accept widely used cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Binance USD, Gemini Dollar and others for those in-game items. Crypto payment service provider BitPay will manage player wallets and transactions, and also establish crypto valuations for trading. 

Nexon has continuously shown interest in blockchain and expanded its investments in crypto. Back in April, Nexon had purchased Bitcoin worth US$100 million, when it was priced at US$58,226. It takes up a little less than 2% of Nexon’s cash and cash equivalents. NXC, Nexon’s holding company, acquired South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Korbit, and Europe-based Bitstamp exchange in 2018. It is reported that CEO of NXC and founder of Nexon Kim Jung-ju, a blockchain enthusiast, stands behind the company’s investments.

However,  the company said its new crypto service is not connected to Nexon’s Bitcoin holdings in any way, and that it will not acquire or hold crypto related to the initiative. Owen Mahoney, president and CEO of Nexon Co., said: “Nexon America’s decision to accept cryptocurrency payments is unrelated to the Bitcoin holdings of NEXON Co.” The general manager of Nexon America Kenny Chang further said it was made to accommodate players, many of whom requested the company include cryptocurrencies as a form of in-game payment.

Meanwhile, crypto payments will only be accepted in the U.S., and there are no plans to service the function in its country of origin, South Korea. Although Nexon did not state any reason behind restricting the functionality, South Korea currently bans all play-to-earn crypto or NFT (non-fungible token) games.

Kim Jung-tae, professor of gamification at Dongyang University, told Forkast.News he thinks the South Korean government’s ambiguity on cryptocurrencies — in between restriction and promotion — is the reason why Nexon’s in-game crypto payment is not available to gamers in South Korea. “I think Nexon will keep an eye on how cryptocurrencies as a payment measure plays out in the U.S. and abroad. After having gone through those countries as a testbed, it may find a more effective way to apply the services back in South Korea,” Kim said. “For now, Nexon seems to have made a decision that the government, which is sensitive to the possibility of speculation [via crypto] in gaming, will likely lean more towards regulations.”