A Chinese man who extorted virtual items and currency from a fellow Internet cafe user to improve his performance in online games was sentenced to three years in prison.
With three friends, the man beat up the victim and forced him to turn over virtual currency worth RMB100,000 (US$14,700).
The men were each fined and the main attacker sentenced to three years in prison by a court in northeastern Liaoning province.
Selling in-game weapons, armor and other items to players for real-world cash is a common way for China’s online gaming companies to a turn a profit.
The virtual currency stolen in the recent case was QQ coins, sold by Chinese Web portal Tencent.
Users can spend QQ coins to buy items in online games and pay for other services, including those in Tencent’s massively popular chat client, QQ.
QQ had 377 million active users at the end of last year, according to Tencent’s annual report.
PC World claims no law in China currently grants protection to virtual property. But the court ruled that it should be protected in this case since the victim had spent time and money to acquire it, the report said.
Chinese courts have been hesitant to set a legal precedent by ruling in such cases. China’s developed online gaming culture has made virtual currency particularly popular there.