For better or worse the notion that virtual items have real-world value isn’t new to video games. Downloadable content and cosmetic upgrades are commonplace, including ridiculous add-ons, like a monocle for your avatar in EVE: Online for $70. But they’re nothing compared to what you’ll find on this list.
What follows is a collection of the most outrageously expensive pieces of digital content the gaming world has ever seen. All of them exist online-only, none of them exist outside of a computer somewhere, and each of them has been bought and sold by real people for real money. If nothing else, after seeing how much people are willing to pay for virtual asteroids and colorful hats you won’t feel so bad about buying that overpriced Season Pass.
1. Got a spare $4,000? Need a virtual paper hat? Read on my friend.
The ever-popular online fantasy game RuneScape has spawned countless strange stories over the years, but few are as enduring as the Partyhats from the 2001 Christmas event. During that event, players were given Christmas Crackers that could only be opened with the help of another player. Opening one resulted in one player receiving a colored Partyhat and the other got a special item like a ring or a dagger.
This event was the second in the game’s history and, thanks to players either selling or dumping their Partyhats over the years, their value has skyrocketed. Today, a Partyhat is worth 2,147,483,647 pieces of gold in RuneScape’s Grand Exchange, which is the highest number possible a 32-bit signed binary integer can worth in computing. In other words, 2,147,483,647 is the highest possible amount of gold Runescape can handle, which leads to extremely rich players using Partyhats to store excess wealth.
Calculating the real-world value of a Partyhat is tricky, but 2 billion pieces of gold in Runescape can be bought online anywhere from $480 to $530. It should be noted that buying and selling gold for real not endorsed by developer Jagex, but it’s not a bad way to work out the real-world value of in-game items.
That said, the Partyhats are worth much more than their gold value. A Purple Partyhat, for example, can fetch up to $1,700 on real-world trading markets, while a Blue Partyhat (the rarest of them all) are valued around $4,000. The items are purely cosmetic, but their value and rarity have led to them becoming the most highly sought-after item in Runescape.
2. Would you pay $38,000 for a dog-monster-thing? What if it was pink?
Ethereal Flames Wardog (Dota 2)
There’s a lot of money in MOBAs right now, and Dota 2 is right up there with the best of them. Millions of dollars are being made in sponsorship and prize money as the world of eSports explodes, so it’s not a huge surprise that Dota 2 should also be home to a stupidly expensive digital pet.
A player by the name of PAADA sold their Ethereal Flames Wardog for a staggering $38,000 online back in 2013 via an auction on Reddit. Part of what made the creature so valuable is its pink coloring, which is actually a color value outside of the range set by Valve. This color bug has since been corrected making the creature incredibly valuable.
As one Reddit user put it “War Dog is the most sought after courier type, ethereal flame is the most sought after effect, and the shade of pink is very sought after. This combination makes it extremely rare, and one of a kind.”
3. For sale: One city, hardly used, tons of sex shops – $50,000
Amsterdam (Second Life)
Second Life is, at the best of times, one of the weirdest MMOs out there. There’s no point in the game other than to roam around and hang out with other people or buy new stuff for your avatar. One thing that is undeniable is how big of a role sex and sexuality plays within the game, which probably goes some way to explaining why a detailed recreation of the city of Amsterdam sold for around $50,000 in 2007.
The Netherlands capital was recreated by Florida local Kevin Alderman and was sold on eBay to an unnamed buyer. Priding itself on authenticity, the Second Life version of Amsterdam was filled with faithfully recreated canals and historic structures, as well as an abundance of sex shops and adult clubs.
Alderman said his company Eros specializes in online adult entertainment and that 90% of his business was done in Second Life. In fact, money from the sale of Amsterdam was to be used to boost his company’s already booming adult-oriented business within the game.
Look, Second Life is weird.
4. How do you turn $100,000 into $635,000? Simple, buy an asteroid.
Club Neverdie (Entropia Universe)
The science-fiction game of Entropia Universe prides itself on being a “real money” MMO and encourages players to buy and sell items for cash in the real world. The crazy amount of cash spent and earned by its players the could make a list all of its own.
The most well-known money-making event in Entropia happened back in 2005 when an English entrepreneur by the name of Jon Jacobs bought an asteroid for a staggering $100,000. He rejected an offer to buy it for $200,000 the very next day, then turned his chunk of digital real estate into a resort called Club Neverdie. He then began selling it off piece by piece for a total of $635,000 by 2010.
The biggest single sale during this whole event came from a fellow Entropia player by the name of John Roma Kalun who paid Jacobs $335,000 for a piece of Club Neverdie. What’s even crazier is this sale was on top of the $200,000 in annual income Club Neverdie was generating from tourists flocking to his virtual retreat.
5. How to blow $1 million on a mobile game.
Various in-game purchases (Game of War: Fire Age)
So technically this isn’t a story of someone buying one single in-game item, instead, this is about one man who somehow blew a fortune on a bunch of in-app purchases. The person in question is a 45-year-old accountant named Kevin Lee Co of Sacramento, California.
Kevin pleaded guilty in court last year after embezzling $4.8 million from his employer since 2008 and was able to churn through vast amounts of company money on things like plastic surgery, luxury cars, expensive furniture, and other big ticket items.
It gets better. For whatever reason, Kevin somehow blew about $1 million of his stolen funds on the medieval fantasy game Game of War: Fire Age. Yes, that mobile game with the commercials featuring Kate Upton. We’ve all played a free-to-play game by now, right? We know how addicting they can be, and how buying a few gems or whatever can seem trivial at the time. But $1 million dollars? He probably should have just built a real castle.
Words: Andrew Whitehead (Twitter: @andrew20xx)