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Nexon takes 20-year-old MapleStory into web3 with Haechi's help

Nexon, one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, is wading into web3 like some of its peers in Asia. The developer of MapleStory is creating a blockchain-powered ecosystem based on the 20-year-old massively multiplayer online game, where players can trade in-game assets like outfits, equipment and virtual pets in the form of non-fungible tokens.

Around 160,000 people in South Korea are still playing MapleStory today, the company wrote recently in a blog citing data from Korea MapleStory.

Blockchain games have been cropping up everywhere in the past two years, but few have entered the mainstream and even the popular ones, like the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, have been short-lived.

Nexon pledges to create more sustainable crypto games. "There was a time when the perception of 'blockchain = P2E' was widely accepted, and there was a lot of talk about using blockchain to make games that make money," a spokesperson from Nexon told TechCrunch in a text message.

"But since, the market has changed, and there are more creators who want to use blockchain to seriously develop games."

It's still too early to say if MapleStory N, Nexon's first blockchain game, and MapleStory Universe, the NFT ecosystem based on the classic game's IP, will ever reach the heights of their Web 2.0 version. Nexon has a rosy outlook, of course.

"MapleStory has more than 180 million accumulative global users, and there are even more people who love the MapleStory IP. We anticipate that MapleStory N and MapleStory Universe will be enjoyed by many players," said Nexon's spokesperson.

The main criticism of play-to-earn games is their flawed economies, where gamers purchase NFTs only to create and sell these digital goods to those who buy-in after them. Nexon isn't going down the pyramid scheme-like path.

In MapleStory N, there is no cash shop and players acquire items through gameplay like completing quests and defeating monsters. If people don't get what they want, they can acquire items from others through the ecosystem's secondary NFT marketplace. Eventually, players can also trade their in-game assets on external marketplaces, according to Nexon.

Onboarding the masses

Nexon is working with a handful of partners to enable its transition into web3. The firm already announced that the digital goods of MapleStory Universe will trade on Polygon, an Ethereum scaling solution that's popular amongst game developers. Today, the South Korean gaming firm said it's teaming up with another web3 company, Haechi Labs, a crypto auditing and wallet solution provider used by more than 500 companies.

"A host of gaming companies started knocking on our door after seeing Axie Infinity’s success since Haechi Labs has been offering smart contract security auditing and wallet solutions in the past 5 years," the company's CEO Geon-gi Moon told TechCrunch in a written response.

"Nowhere else do you see such a high number of executives at AAA game companies so bullish on integrating their games with blockchain, but South Korea."

Most existing decentralized applications require users to log in via their crypto wallets. But what if people have no prior web3 experience? Haechi is touting Face Wallet, which allows users to log into crypto games like MapleStory N through their existing accounts with Google, Facebook, Apple, Discord and Kakao.

Once logged in, users will gain access to their Face Wallet accounts. Anyone who's used a self-custodial wallet like MetaMask knows the stress of trying to keep their 16-word seed phrase safe. Losing one's seed phrase means losing access to the wallet permanently. Custodial solutions are easy to use, but on the other hand, asset owners are exposed to the risk the platform could get hacked or go bust.

Face Wallet is trying to solve the custodian dilemma by offering a self-custodial wallet that allows users to log in with a six-digit password and gives them the option to recover passcodes.

This is how it works: When a user creates a wallet via Face Wallet, its key is split into two encrypted "shares," explained Moon. Share 1 is stored in a secure infrastructure environment and, usually, also in the user’s device. Share 2 is kept in the Face Wallet team's repository. The decrypted keys are never shared with Haechi; nor can Haechi decrypt either of the encrypted keys, added Moon.

Haechi isn't the only one trying to make self-hosted wallets more user-friendly. The Ethereum community itself is tackling this issue through a major technical upgrade called "account abstraction" and developers, such as venture-backed Soul Wallet, are racing to introduce wallets powered by smart contract capabilities.