Online game leveling up service operator responsible for trainer’s malicious destruction of game accounts
With the fast development of the online gaming industry, more and more game enthusiasts are using game leveling up services to upgrade their game accounts. Game leveling up service refers to the service provided by individuals or companies that offer to play a game on behalf of another player. The client needs to give his own account information to the game trainer so the trainer can play the game for him and complete the game tasks, for which trainer is paid. That service is now developing from individual activities to company-organized activities, and disputes concerning it are arising.
Wang, a game enthusiast, bought an online game account and charged 46,922.8 yuan ($6,805) into the account. In order to upgrade his account level, he purchased the leveling up service from S company. After payment, the company assigned him a trainer, who told Wang not to log onto the account during the training period, to which Wang adhered. When the service period ended, Wang logged onto his account and found that over 100 martial characters had been removed, and were not recoverable. Really upset, Wang questioned the trainer, who said he was required by his supervisor from S company to take that step due to some internal disputes in the company. The trainer then unfriended Wang from the app. Wang then turned to S company claiming compensation. After failing to reach an agreement, Wang sued S company at the Beijing Internet Court (BIC), requesting compensation for economic losses of 46,922.8 yuan.
S company argued that Wang’s claimed was inflated as he did not consider the depreciation of the game account. Also, the destructive behavior was by the trainer. S company hired the trainer after Wang placed the order, and paid the trainer after he finished his tasks. There was only a contractual relationship between the company and the trainer. The company did not conduct the account destruction, so should not be responsible for Wang's loss.
Focus of the dispute:
Should online game leveling up service operators be responsible for their trainer's malicious behavior of destroying game accounts? If so, should they be liable for the losses caused?
After trial, the court concluded that:
To determine the subject of responsibility, the BIC obtained the login data of Wang's game account from the game's operating company， which showed that the login location changed after Wang purchased the leveling up service, and the deletion of the martial characters also happened during that time. The evidence chain was completed from other sources including a WeChat conversation log, proving that the deletion of the martial characters was done by staff from S company. Wang paid for the leveling up service from S company. S company as the service operator failed in its obligation as contracted, so was liable for breaching the contract. It was not material how the company fulfilled the service, whether by its own staff or its contractors.
In the game involved, martial characters are a key element in progressing the game, and have major impact on its entertainment value. The deletion of those characters will result in that value being significantly diminished or even lost. According to Article 577 of the Civil Code, "Where a party fails to perform his contractual obligation or his performance does not conform to the agreement, it shall bear default liability such as continuing to perform the obligations, taking remedial measures, or compensating for losses." When S company did not provide contrary evidence to prove the depreciation of the account, and given that it was only about a month between when Wang bought the account and when S company was providing the leveling up service for Wang, the BIC found that Wang's loss could be measured by the input cost of the account and the subsequent recharges. The BIC thus supported Wang's claim for compensation.
Details of the judgement:
S company was ordered to compensate Wang in the amount of 46,922.8 yuan within seven days after the verdict.
Tips from the judge:
Judge Liu Shuhan from the Beijing Internet Court. [Photo/ Beijing Internet Court]
As an emerging business mode, the game leveling up service needs proper regulation and guidance. On the one hand, "plug-in" programs which hack in the game system and directly affect the game balance and infringe the game company's legitimate rights and interests should be strictly prohibited. On the other hand, when game players buy leveling up services from the service operators, if the form and content of the contract do not violate the mandatory provisions of laws and administrative regulations, the contract should be deemed valid. If during the service period, property losses are caused by malicious destruction of the account by the service company or its contracted personnel, the game player is entitled to claim compensation from the service operator.
As for game players, they should proactively maintain a healthy and fair online game environment, and not be obsessed with the leveling up service. They should recognize that purchasing those services may pose risks of game account theft, leaking of personal information and property loss. Discretion is needed.