In 2016, a 45-year-old accountant named Kevin Li Ko from California was found guilty of embezzling $4.8 million from his employer. And about a million of that amount went to none other than Game of War: Fire Age, the wildly successful free-to-play strategy game for mobile devices.
However, these days, players spend a lot of money every day on virtual items quite voluntarily, whether it’s points for a character or an entire space station. In particular, the latter can be quite expensive.
Revenant ship in EVE Online – $9,000
Some of the spaceships in EVE Online, the sci-fi MMORPG, can run into the thousands of dollars, but the most expensive one cost the player roughly $9,000, or 309 billion “interstellar credits” to be exact. At that time, only a few of these Revenant ships could be found throughout the EVE Online world.
Unfortunately for the buyer, it soon became clear that a spy was wound up in his team, who led everyone into an ambush, where the newly acquired ship was ruthlessly destroyed.
World of Warcraft character – $10,000
It’s no secret that many World of Warcraft players have been and are still trading by selling upgraded characters, offering beginners to save a lot of time. In September 2007, this underground business reached its peak when someone named Shaks purchased a level 70 night elf for $10,000.
The Zeuzo character came with various rare items, such as the Warglaive of Azzinoth, which only a few in WoW could boast of. The original owner of Zeuzo spent roughly 600 hours developing the character, but decided to sell it to improve his financial situation.
Everything would be fine, but a few days after the deal, Blizzard, which does not allow trading accounts, blocked the character on their servers, leaving Shaks with nothing.
Mace in Diablo 3 – $14,000
Before Blizzard shut down the Auction House in Diablo 3, players could earn extra money by selling items found in the game for real money. The most profitable deal was the sale of the mace Echoing Fury at auction for $14,000. Such a high price was due to the characteristics and rarity of the item.
“We wanted to legitimize the trade of items between players so that they do not have to go to third-party resources. We hoped to get rid of cheating in the game, but in the end, trading became too accessible, ”Diablo 3 lead designer Jay Wilson said after the Auction House closed.
Меч в Age of Wushu — $16,0
Chinese developer Snail released the MMORPG Age of Wushu in 2012 and invited players to plunge into the world of mixed martial arts and the history of the Ming Dynasty. Along with this, even before the release of the title, Snail held an auction where one-of-a-kind virtual items could be purchased. Some of them cost up to $2,000, but the main hit cost one of the fans $16,000.
One of the players was so taken with the unreleased game that he paid 100,000 yen for a sword called “Dragon Slaying Saber”. The buyer had to wait another year before getting the weapon in the game, but for now, be content with just the image of the sword in the frame.
Courier in DOTA 2 — $38,000
Couriers in DOTA 2, delivering purchases to the player in shops, definitely simplify the task, but it is unlikely that anyone will appreciate any of them at 38 thousand dollars. As the original owner of the Ethereal Flames Wardog courier explained, its value is primarily due to the fact that it turned pink as a result of a bug.
At least one player who purchased a courier for the above amount at an auction in 2013 agreed with this statement. What he couldn’t have predicted was that just a few days after the purchase, Valve released an update that allowed him to change the color of his courier, which caused the value of the pink Ethereal Flames Wardog to drop by about ten times.
Amsterdam in Second Life — $50,000
The creators of the Second Life virtual world, Linden Lab, have always highlighted the fact that their creation was never conceived as another MMORPG representative. Linden Lab wanted to present players with a testing ground for creating a second life, eventually naming the game as such.
One of the activities in Second Life is building. The game already has more than twenty thousand different locations, but one of the most popular is the virtual version of Amsterdam.
The location impressively recreated several real districts of the capital of the Netherlands, but the most attractive place for players was the “red light district”, offering to visit adult nightclubs and sex shops. At the same time, prostitution turned out to be the main hit among visitors.
The author of the virtual city was the American Kevin Alderman, who in 2007 decided to put the location up for sale via eBay. The popularity of Amsterdam made itself felt, and the seller’s wallet was replenished with $50,000.
Alderman’s success can hardly be called simple luck. He owns Eros, a company that specializes in providing adult entertainment online. At the same time, 90% of Eros business is concentrated in Second Life.
Entropia Universe was released back in 2003 and is a huge virtual world consisting of several planets. Probably one of the main features of the game is its economy, which allows you to exchange earned PED (Project Entropia Dollars) for real American dollars in a ratio of 10 to 1. The developers, among other things, used this opportunity to attract a new audience, saying that you can earn, just by playing Entropia Universe.
In fact, everything is not so simple. In Entropia Universe, the player can indeed collect PEDs through hunting, mining, or simple resource gathering, but it will take hundreds of hours to earn very little. There is even a running joke among players that grinding in Entropia Universe brings in less than what you have to pay for the electricity you need to play the game.
The only option that justifies the promises of the developers is connected with the purchase of “real estate” in the game.
Treasure Island — $26 500
One of these locations, namely Treasure Island, was put up for auction by the game developer MindArk itself. At first glance, it may not seem reasonable that David Storey bought the island for more than twenty-six thousand dollars. However, along with the location, Story got the opportunity to collect a tax from everyone who wants to hunt on its territory, and there are plenty of such people in the game.
Monria — $150 000
In April 2013, a group of Entropia Universe players bought the rights to one of the universe’s moons from MindArk for $150,000, eventually calling it Monria. Together with the developers, the new owners of the location developed the Monria theme, filling it with the myths of Howard Lovecraft. In essence, Monria has become a small standalone game in the Entropia Universe, offering players a ton of new content, monsters and quests. Moreover, 100 apartments and 10 shops were available on the moon, which brought a separate income. In addition to all of the above, the owners of Monria received a share of the profits from MindArk itself. In 2015, the location was resold to Virtualsense.
Crystal Palace Space Station – $330,000
Almost since its release, the Crystal Palace space station has been considered one of the most popular locations in the game, allowing the owner to earn an impressive income in the real world by collecting taxes from each visitor. However, the station changed ownership in 2009 after Canadian user Eric “Buzz Erik Lightywear” Novak bought it for 3.3 million PEDs at auction.
Club Neverdie — $635 000
In 2005, John “NEVERDIE” Jacobs decided to make an interesting investment, and in order to raise the necessary $100,000, he mortgaged his house. With the money received, Jacobs purchased an asteroid in the Entropia Universe orbiting the planet Calypso. Rejecting an offer to sell the location for $200,000 the next day, Jacobs wasted no time in building, and soon a nightclub, a stadium, and a supermarket appeared on the asteroid. He called the whole affair the Club Neverdie resort, which eventually allowed Jacobs to return the initial investment in just eight months. At its peak, the asteroid brought its owner $200,000 a year.
In 2010, Jacobs began selling off his holdings. At that time, Club Neverdie included 66 stores, 1000 apartments and teleports. Jacobs decided to sell his resort in installments, raising $635,000 in total. The largest piece of the asteroid was purchased by John Roma Kalun for $335,000.
“Thanks to our special in-game economy, Entropia Universe has been successful and continues to evolve to this day. MindArk founder Jan Welter-Timkrans wanted to surprise everyone with an unprecedented virtual universe, and almost two decades later, Entropia Universe remains the only “real” virtual reality,” said MindArk CEO Henrik Neel.
Interestingly, Entropia Universe was very close to setting an even more impressive record, namely the sale of the very first planet Calypso for six million dollars in 2011. SEE Virtual Worlds agreed to a deal according to which it had to take control of the entire planet , and then introduce two new ones in the Entropia Universe, which boded huge revenue, given that in 2010 the title circulated between the players of $ 428 million.
However, SEE Virtual Worlds was unable to pay the promised amount and MindArk canceled the deal. Instead, she decided to sell 25,000 pieces of land at $100 each to anyone who wanted to invest in their future, both virtual and real.