A Shanghai online game player who stabbed a competitor to death for selling his cyber-sword has been given a suspended death sentence, which in effect means life imprisonment, state media said on Wednesday.
The case had created a dilemma in China where no law exists for the ownership of virtual weapons.
Qiu Chengwei, 41, stabbed competitor Zhu Caoyuan in the chest after he was told Zhu had sold his "dragon sabre", used in the popular online game, "Legend of Mir 3", the China Daily said.
"Legend of Mir 3" features heroes and villains, sorcerers and warriors, many of whom wield enormous swords.
Qiu was sentenced to death "with a two-year reprieve", which in effect means life behind bars. That, in turn, could be reduced to 15 years if he behaves well, the newspaper said of the sentence which has angered the victim's family.
"My son was only 26 when he died," said Zhu Huimin, the dead man's father, who is planning to appeal. "He was sleeping when Qiu broke into his home. He was barely able to put on his pants before Qiu stabbed him.
"We want Qiu to die, and immediately."
Qiu and a friend jointly won their weapon last February, and lent it to Zhu who then sold it for 7,200 yuan (US$870), the newspaper said.
Qui went to the police to report the "theft" but was told the weapon was not real property protected by law.
"Zhu promised to hand over the cash but an angry Qui lost patience and attacked Zhu at his home, stabbing him in the left chest with great force and killing him," the court was told.
More and more online gamers were seeking justice through the courts over stolen weapons and credits, the newspaper said at the time the case went to trial.
"The armor and swords in games should be deemed as private property as players have to spend money and time for them," Wang Zongyu, an associate law professor at Beijing's Renmin University of China, was quoted as saying.
But other experts have called for caution. "The 'assets' of one player could mean nothing to others as they are by nature just data created by game providers," a lawyer for a Shanghai-based Internet game company was quoted as saying.