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Author: sunnyna

Are Virtual Items Worth Nothing?

Posted by sunnyna Thursday March 5 2009 at 3:23AM
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 Blaine, WI resident, Geoff Luurs fell victim to a heinous crime. His "friend" obtained his user name and password and wiped his FFXI account clean. Luurs did the math and claims that he lost over $3800 worth of virtual property (and subsequently, his girlfriend [j/k people with $4k worth of good in FFXI don't have girlfriends]). He called the police, but they did nothing because they believe that the goods have no real value. No real value! no real value! Dammit, my gil is worth something!

However, if the government begins recognizing virtual items as having real value, then the next logical step would be to tax them. It would not make sense otherwise. It is akin to the "don't give licenses to illegals" argument in the sense that one arm of the government (police saying the virtual goods have worth) to take an opposite stance to another arm of the government (the IRS saying they have no worth). The thing that perplexes me though is that it seems well-settled to me that this stuff has value. While it may not have a physical manifestation, there are still people who are willing to buy 'worthless' virtual items - if a WoW gift card came out that only had an azure dragon whelp pet, I bet people would buy it. Virtual goods are commodities.

While I agree that the tax implications are mind-boggling, and surely going to be a pain to gamers everywhere, virtual goods will be eventually thought of the way they should be, as valuable property, for better or worse.

What do you think?


catfud writes:

Don't give out your username or password, problem solved.

Thu Mar 05 2009 5:17AM Report
OddjobXL writes:

You might like this article:

Thu Mar 05 2009 9:05AM Report
fischsemmel writes:

Didn't read the whole article, but consider this: do a person's thoughts or emotions or mental state have value?

American courts seem to think so, because they will award monetary damages to individuals who have been mentally traumatized by certain situations.

Now if a person can be given a monetary award in a civil lawsuit because, basically, their thoughts were damaged... it doesn't seem like too much of a leap to award a person in a civil lawsuit because he/she lost "virtual items." What are virtual items but the value they have in a person's mind, after all?


It will just be a while before laws catch up with the times.

Thu Mar 05 2009 12:01PM Report
fischsemmel writes:

Oh - and as far as taxing virtual items... I don't foresee it. Taxes on buying a game or on a monthly subscription maybe. But taxing someone for something that has no effect on the real world other than on the chemicals in a person's head? Yeah, right.

It seems as likely to me that the government starts taxing you for being happy when you read a book with a good ending.

Thu Mar 05 2009 12:03PM Report
Caractacus writes:

Great topic. I don't really know a lot about how taxes work,  so I'm not entirely sure what the government would be taxing here. When you obtain an item in an MMO, you aren't really paying any money for it, so no sort of sales tax would apply, right?

But I'm guessing that you're referring more to the transactions that take place between players, wherein one player DOES pay for an item using real money. In this case I'm not sure how taxes apply, because I know that the government tries to tax purchaes from online merchants such as Amazon (right now this is kind of done on the honors system, as you pay these taxes when you file your taxes), but I don't think it taxes things like subscriptions to games. If they don't  tax the subscriptions themselves, how would they tax the items in the game?


Thu Mar 05 2009 12:27PM Report
eldanesh117 writes:

This person has been posting blogs relevant to MMOs with gold-farming sites in them.

Though I'd have to say they've gotten better at disguising their advertisements.

Thu Mar 05 2009 6:12PM Report
daltanious writes:

To me what is valuable with that items is what they represent. Houndreds of hours of fun. So to somebody game really can be "it is just a game". But for many is not. I do not think some artist when robbed of picture he has invested hours in hours and a lot of passion to paint would get well along with "oh, was just a painting, who cares if they robbed me". Mona Lisa for that matter is just a painting.

So i think this should be applied in court. It is NOT "just a game". Of course is not a living being, good friend, lovely pet, child, parent, ... but it is definitively NOT "just a game".

Fri Mar 06 2009 11:56AM Report writes:
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