Online multiplayer games are at increasing risk from hackers, according to a Microsoft security development engineer.
Games such as World of Warcraft, Project Entropia and Everquest providea likely avenue for criminals, as characters and equipment can be soldon the black market for real cash - often in excess of £5,000.
"The police are really good at understanding 'someone stole my creditcard and ran up a lot of money'. It's a lot harder to get them to buyinto 'someone stole my magic sword'," Microsoft engineer Dave Weinsteintold Reuters news agency.
Massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG) are enormouslypopular, and have been the subject of increasing scrutiny as theirinherent value has increased. Norrath, the fictional setting forEverquest, has been rated as the 77th richest country in the world,coming between Russia and Bulgaria.
Last year Sony launched the Sony Station Exchange, where players ofEverQuest can legally trade in-game cash, magical items and characters,while earlier this year Project Entropia announced it would issue areal-world cash card, linked to gamers' online characters.