An Inside Look at MapleStory Universe, a Mega Web3 Project in the Games Industry

Polygon Labs
August 31, 2023
Image source: Dribbble

Nexon, one of the world’s largest game publishers, revolutionized the industry when it pioneered the free-to-play business model over two decades ago. Now, its flagship MapleStory franchise is being ushered into the world of Web3.

The original MapleStory launched in the early 2000s at the dawn of fantasy MMORPGs, now referred to as Virtual Worlds. It caught the attention of a massive audience and secured its place in the hearts of many across the globe thanks to its uniquely bright and whimsical art style that was surprisingly rare at the time; a live operations knowhow that kept people engaged and coming back for more; and a focus on building up the community that transformed the game into a culture of its own. The franchise, with virtually an endless amount of content to enjoy, now boasts 180 million registered users and $4 billion in gross revenue.

It’s little wonder then that in March, when the announcement was made about the development of a Virtual World ecosystem centered on MapleStory NFTs, both the game and Web3 communities took notice. Many expect the debut to mark a watershed moment not only for blockchain games, but for adoption of Web3 in general.

In a series of posts we will take a deep dive into MapleStory Universe as it approaches its 2024 debut. There is a lot to dig into: the pitfalls of play-to-earn and the challenge of creating a self-sustaining ecosystem that lasts, this giant project’s choice of Polygon Chain Development Kit and what it says about our multi-chain future, lessons for established companies looking to embrace blockchain technology to stay ahead of the innovator’s dilemma, and much more.

We started by sitting down with Sunyoung Hwang, who has been leading the MapleStory Universe project, to get a big picture view of the company’s ambitious plans for MapleStory Universe. The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

How will on-chain digital ownership and interoperability play out in MapleStory Universe?

MapleStory Universe is a Virtual World ecosystem where various games and applications made in MapleStory interact with NFTs. All NFTs are owned by each user and can be traded and transferred between users within the MapleStory Universe. 

  • MapleStory N is the evolution of the original “MapleStory” infused with blockchain technology and NFTs to define a new MMORPG experience.
  • MapleStory N Mobile is the blockchain version of “MapleStory Mobile” that allows players to enjoy MapleStory NFTs on their phones.
  • MapleStory N Worlds is a sandbox platform where players can participate as creators as well to build various blockchain games.
  • MapleStory N SDK is a set of tools that will enable developers and creators to make their own apps and realize new ideas beyond games

Starting with MapleStory N, MapleStory Universe will be expanded into a universe that includes MapleStory N Mobile, N Worlds and N SDK. The idea is to empower creators who can contribute to the ecosystem by developing their own decentralized applications. 

MapleStory N is both a user-driven game ecosystem and PC MMORPG, where users can acquire MapleStory NFTs through in-game play and freely trade NFTs with other users in the MapleStory Universe marketplace. By combining these various features, we hope to create a convergence of the game and blockchain worlds.

What was the thinking behind the decision to go into Web3?

MapleStory Universe is not trying to reinvent MapleStory with Web3. Rather, the focus is on how we can make MapleStory even more fun to play. MapleStory is a game that has been live for 20 years now with a focus on enhancing the core fun experience, which we call the 'reward experience.' We found that blockchain and NFTs can maximize the reward experience of MapleStory. 

We're not just onboarding the currently available MapleStory game, we're developing a completely separate game. In the same way that many other games utilize specialized engines to enhance their core gameplay, we are developing MapleStory with blockchain to enhance our core gameplay.

How will the core game loop change?

It will be the same as the existing MapleStory. What will change is the growth structure and internal structure. In particular, the meta of the game will be quite different. The launch specs of MapleStory N will be different from the existing MapleStory in terms of in-game content, jobs, and level caps.

The biggest difference from the existing MapleStory game is the economic system, mainly focused on preserving the uniqueness of items and extending their utility. Even though the content will be familiar to those who have played the game before, the experience will be quite different. Items becoming NFTs and the elimination of Cash Shops is just one example.

In the past, items sold through the Cash Shop had no quantity limits, which eventually led to the devaluation of existing items. In MapleStory N, users will be able to preserve the significance of items because the number of items available is limited. In addition, all items will be NFT-ized which will allow it to be used in other content in MapleStory Universe.

As an example MapleStory N players will be able to import their character NFTs and item NFTs in MapleStory N Mobile and use it as it was on PC; and vice-versa.

How do you see the market timing?

Market timing is important, but we also believe that a killer service or app can be a catalyst all on its own - a game changer, if you can forgive the pun. We are constantly thinking and researching ways to improve our live services, and we believe that the best time to launch is when we are ready to take on a new challenge.

Think back to the early days of mobile games. You had many popular PC titles ported to mobile that struggled to catch on. In the end, the games that succeeded were those that were created ground-up for the mobile platform and were adapted for the characteristics of new gamers. 

For best results, we need to develop games that leverage the specifics of the new technology. Blockchain projects must also think deeply about how to identify these characteristics and design for them accordingly.

What’s your outlook on the evolution of games as a culture genre?

Games in the past were content with a fixed end. You play it once, consume the content, and that was it. Games in the current Web2 era have become a continuous service with content constantly being pushed out, that can be played without end.

Games in the Web3 era will overcome the limitations of Web2 by building better communities and ecosystems to maximize the sustainability of the game. Imagine games that people can play for a lifetime, forming communities and contributing first-hand to thriving ecosystems.


Start exploring MapleStory Universe and follow on Twitter and Medium for the latest developments. Tune into the Polygon Labs Blog and our social channels for the next installment in this series and to keep up with updates about the Polygon ecosystem.

Together, we can build an equitable future for all through the mass adoption of Web3!

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