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Online gamer loses virtual spaceship – and over $6,000

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EVE Online (Credit: CCP Games)

EVE Online is a unique (and sometimes scary) corner of the video game world. Having debuted in 2003, the massively-multiplayer space game is older than World of Warcraft and a lot messier, with a cutthroat emphasis on alliances, diplomacy, and war. But what makes it truly unique is the game's economic system.

The in-game currency of ISK (Interstellar Kredits) carries a real-world value. So imagine the scream of panic that must have come from the player who calls himself "stewie Zanjoahir" when his ship carrying valuable blueprints was destroyed by other players recently.

How valuable? The real-world value is being estimated at over $6,000.

To understand how the loss of a virtual ship can have an impact on a real-world wallet, a little explanation is in order.

The economy in EVE Online is a living thing. CCP, the game's developer, actually has an economist in-house who monitors the virtual world, working to curb inflation or introducing new types of technology to absorb currency. In real-world terms, that economist and his team are a virtual Federal Reserve, selling bonds to shrink the money supply.

Technically, players cannot exchange in-game currency for real-world cash, but CCP does let them use that in-game currency to buy real-world objects (like nVidia graphics cards) and 30-day game time codes to cover the game's monthly subscription fees.

So, stewie Zanjoahir's decision to load his small, fast Atron ship with the rare blueprints wasn't his smartest move. And flying without an ally escort might have been his dumbest.

His thinking, apparently, was that the ship would be fast enough to avoid enemies. It wasn't. And when it was destroyed, the total loss was valued by the in-game system at 213 billion ISK.

Those ISK could have been used to buy some 30 years of game time from CCP, a real-world value of $6,422.50 at current trading rates.

On the upside, he may now have a lot of free time on his hands. We can't imagine anyone wanting to return to the game after that sort of humiliation.

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