According to a World Bank report from in 2011 global expenditure on computer games exceeded AUS $3.7 billion. This makes online gaming a fast growing commercial entertainment industry; one creating legal questions as well as financial ones.

In 2013, for instance, Kristina Fincham applied to her insurance company for compensation after her online World of Warcraft home was broken into and robbed. She had built up $75,000 worth of gold bullion, an in-game currency able to be bought and sold for real money. In her application Ms Fincham said she had worked to accrue this currency just as you work at any job, it’s loss then was akin to someone robbing her real world home.

Her insurance company declined her application. Ms Fincham has since taken them to court.

Unlike Bitcoin online currencies are not legally recognised and so are considered valueless until they are transferred into real world money.

But they have the potential to create incredible sums for their owners. As such many online hoards have become targets for thieves and hackers. And while their thievery is against the game creator’s terms of service, it’s still a murky legal question as to whether or not their thievery is illegal: If the online currency isn’t recognised legally then neither is stealing it.

As an example of the incredible amounts some players are amassing online consider these:

In the huge multiplayer game Eve Online a player lost around US$ 10,000 when his spaceship (a Revenant Super Carrier) was set upon and destroyed by a rival faction. At the time the ship was thought to be the only one of its type in the game.

Arguably the most expensive item ever sold in the virtual marketplace was a Burning Flames Team Captain Hat, in the game Team Fortress 2. It fetched the stunning price of AUS $24,380. The buyer was quoted as sayig he thought it cheaper than the amount he was expecting!

But the winner has to go to game developers MindArk. This Swedish team built and market an online game called Entropia Universe. The idea is for players to visit virtual worlds. One world, a home to a community of players making hundreds of millions of online dollars each year, was bought by a conglomerate for US $6 million last year.

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