Online gamer slew player over theft of virtual treasure

A Shanghai man was sentenced to death Tuesday after a dispute over ownership of a virtual sword in an online game led to a real-life killing.

A Shanghai man was sentenced to death Tuesday after a dispute over ownership of a virtual sword in an online game led to a real-life slaying.

Shanghai Number 2 Intermediate People's Court gave online gamer Qiu Chengwei the death sentence with a two-year reprieve after he slew another player, Zhu Caoyuan, last October, according to a report published Wednesday in the official newspaper China Daily.

As long as Qiu behaves well in prison and is not found to have committed other crimes, his sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment, and he may only serve 15 years, the newspaper said.

The pair had argued over ownership of a virtual sword that Qiu and another player had won in the online game "Legend of Mir III." Qiu loaned the item to Zhu, but Zhu then sold it for 7,200 renminbi (around US$870). When Qiu tried to involve the police in recovering the item or the money, he was told that such virtual items are not protected by Chinese property laws. After Zhu refused to return the item or pay compensation, Qiu went to his home and stabbed him in the heart, according to the report.

Online gaming is a high-stakes business in China, and is set to grow further over the next five years, according to market researcher IDC. Around 20.3 million Chinese played online games last year, spending US$298 million to do so.

A parallel market trading in-game items for real-life money is also springing up, observers say.

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