A 45-year-old Californian man has admitted to embezzling $4.8m (£3.8m) from his employer, and spending $1m of the stolen money on free-to-play mobile strategy game Game of War. He also admitted spending the money on plastic surgery and season tickets to see the NFL side the San Francisco 49ers.
Kevin Lee Co told a Sacramento federal court that he embezzled nearly $5m from his job at Caterpillar heavy machinery dealership Holt of California between 2008 and 2015. You can read his guilty plea here, via Ars Technica.
First released in 2013 and developed by Machine Zone, Game of War: Fire Age is a freemium online multiplayer strategy game for iOS and Android devices, in which players gather resources, build cities and battle both AI opponents and other players on grid-based maps.
Between 2014 and 2015 the game was one of the highest grossing mobile games, aided by microtransactions and gameplay that encourages payment to forgo wait times woven into its strategic multiplayer battles.
If you haven't played Game of War, you may remember it as the game advertised by supermodel Kate Upton, and later Mariah Carey, in a string of ads released in 2014 and 2015.
In April, a study from research firm Slice Intelligence (via Venture Beat) found that on average Game of War players spent $549.69 on microtransactions. It was an average that far exceeded other mobile games in 2015, including Clash of Clans, The Simpsons: Tapped out and Summoner's War, which drew the second most money from its players, at $272.41.
The two charges Co had pled guilty to - Wire Fraud and Money Laundering - both carry a maximum 20 year sentence, or a combined fine of upwards of $750,000. The plea also states that "the defendant also agrees that the Court can order the payment of restitution for the full loss caused by the defendant's wrongful conduct."
He will be sentenced in May.