It’s a classic story of selling a multi-million-dollar video game character on a digital sale site for $500 – we’ve all heard it. This particular story takes place in China, and starts with a video game “whale” – a rich person who spends boatloads of cash on video games. This whale, Lu Mou, spent 8 million to 10 million yuan (the equivalent of around $1.4 million USD) in a video game, creating a powerful in-game character with in-game purchases.
This whale Lu Mou met a friend online who played the same game – this friend was Li Mousheng. At some point Lu gave his in-game character to his friend Li. It’s suggested by official Sichuan High Court filings that Lu spent money on the account, 但很少玩 (“but rarely plays”, literally “but very less play”), while Li has always been “the one playing” the character.
Here’s where things get strange. Li wanted to transfer the character to Lu for an amount of money. It would seem strange that he’d ask for cash for a character that’d been given to him for free – and court documentation does not explain this part of the transaction specifically. We can safely assume, here, that Lu and Li had an understanding where Li would put in the time to level the character up in-game, with all the high-end in-game gear purchased by Lu, then would transfer the character to Lu for a specified amount of cash.
We don’t KNOW that part, but it’d follow with the tendencies of whale game players. It would seem that Lu just spend thousands of yuen in a game that he then decides he does not want to play – when in reality, it’d make a lot of sense for Lu to start playing the game, buy a bunch of gear, then employ Li to do all the busywork of leveling up the character in exchange for a payment.
The game in which this cash was spent is called called 逆水寒 (Against the Cold Current, or literally “Inverse, Water, Cold”, or Treacherous Waters). Above you’ll see some gameplay for this game. This game was developed and released by the company NetEase. NOTE: See a few other mentions of the NetEase company in the timeline below this article.
NetEase has a so-called “treasure house” where users of NetEase games can transfer in-game goods for real money. Using this treasure house, Li attempted to sell the character (of which we speak above) for 388,000 yuan (US$55,138). Instead, he accidentally listed the character on the sale site for 3888 yuan (US$552), and a third, unrelated person purchased the character.
Li suggested that when he was set to list the character in the treasure house, he was “temporarily dizzy” because he’d been playing video games for a long time. His dizziness led to the sale of the item and an eventual court case.
Lu took both Li and NetEase to court to attempt to reclaim his character. In the end, Li lost nothing but time, Lu got his character but had to pay 90,000 yuan (US$12,789) in damages. Damages were paid to the person who’d legally purchased the character in the treasure house for 3888 yuan (US$552) – that 3888 yuan was also refunded in full. What a ride!