From the Wall Street Journal:
“China’s fastest-rising currency isn’t the yuan. It’s the QQ coin — online play money created by marketers to sell such things as virtual flowers for instant-message buddies, cellphone ringtones and magical swords for online games.
In recent weeks, the QQ coin’s real-world value has risen as much as 70%.
It’s the most extreme case of a so-called virtual currency blurring the boundaries between the online and real worlds — and challenging legal limits. A Chinese Internet company called Tencent Holdings Ltd. designed the payment system in 2002 to allow its 233 million regular registered users to shop for treats in its virtual world. Virtual currencies are in use in many countries — but nowhere have they taken root more deeply than in China.
Selling virtual amusement to China’s Internet community, the world’s second largest, is big business. Tencent, a company listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and famous in China for its penguin mascot, retails QQ coins for one yuan (13 cents) each, and also awards them for free to top-scoring videogamers to keep them playing. QQ’s virtual universe is a marketing tool too — used by the likes of Coca-Cola Co. for promotions.” [Full Text]