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The End Of Ownership - MapleStory Buyer Experience

Sep 28, 2018

Anyone who plays MapleStory—an online multiplayer game created by South Korean developer Wizet—soon learns to loathe what gamers call "looting." As in most fantasy massively multiplayer online games, or MMOs, players spend much of their time trotting about a large virtual realm in battle with vicious monsters. These monsters, once vanquished, leave behind in-game currency and all sorts of valuable or crucial items—which the victorious player is then obliged to wander over and click a button to collect, or "loot." Thousands of monsters populate the game's Maple World, each one carrying something for players to capture. Countless hours may be frittered away in this repetitive pursuit. Looting, for the dogged MapleStory player, becomes a maddening chore.

But MapleStory also features what it calls a Cash Shop. There, eager players may exchange real-world money for a number of in-game items—including, indispensable, a digital pet that offers companionship while also taking care of the looting, usually available for about $5 every 90 days. "The pet follows you around while you play, and items near the pet magically jump off the ground and into your inventory," explains Uzo Olisemeka, a longtime fan of MapleStory who insists that paying not to have to loot an item hundreds of times every hour is "a steal." MapleStory is officially free to play, and nobody is required to spend money in the Cash Shop. At least in theory. "The game is practically impossible to enjoy at higher levels without a pet looting for you," Olisemeka points out. "But nobody thinks of it as a subscription fee, and everyone gladly pays for their pet."

But what exactly does a player of MapleStory own when they spend money on their digital pet? The question is becoming increasingly relevant at a time when more and more of our property exists in the virtual sphere: digitally downloaded movies, television programs, Kindle books, MP3s. We understand perfectly well that when we exchange money for physical goods—for a TV or a refrigerator or a pair of jeans—that a tangible transaction has been conducted. Namely, we understand that having given money to another party and having received goods in return, the goods in question now belong to us in a concrete and legally protected way.

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