Nobody should ever get away with holding a knife to a 13 year old boy and demanding things from his Runescape bank. That is assault and intimidation, as well as morally repulsive. Convicting his attackers will probably be applauded throughout Gielinor.
But there will be more unease about the second aspect of the charges. Does anyone really want real world value conferred upon in-game items?
There have been sporadic court-cases concerning virtual theft, but the whole issue remains entrenched in a legislative no man's land. Game developers would rather that it stayed there, as conveying real world value on pixel wealth could pave the way for further legal battles.
In this most recent case, the Dutch Advocate General had advised, "Virtual objects can represent an economic value both inside and outside the game. They are also individually distinguishable and transferable".
While great for the victim of the theft, this could spell bad news for Runescape's creators Jagex. They cannot be held accountable for the potential loss of pixel possessions, as long as worth is confined to in-game activities.
Say, for example, my Runescape character was to die while fighting a dragon. Amongst my losses was a shield, which I had spent many hours working towards owning. At the moment, Jagex could simply answer that is the nature of the game. You win some, you lose some, and you should have taken an anti-fire potion with you to the dragon.
But if my shield now has real world value, then I could make an argument that I have been emotionally affected by its loss. The statement that this is the 'nature of the game' now becomes an accusation. Jagex created an environment in which I was forced to relinquish my shield. My psychological distress could legally be their fault, though finding a judge to confirm that might be trickier.
Jagex would be more at risk from people suing them after being banned from the game. Now the company will have purposefully, and with intent, separated an individual from a bank full of real world value. They would have nullified perhaps years' worth of time and energy.
The decision of the Hague could well open the gates for a test case of this kind. The judge stated that the amulet and mask had intrinsic value because the victim had invested something. This is a subtle difference to anything that has gone before. It cut Jagex entirely out of the equation and afforded a measure of ownership onto the 13 year old who possessed them inside the game.
If that is confirmed with more legal rulings, then Jagex will have to concede that they do not have any proprietorial claim over items in their own game. At the very least, that will see a boom in real world trading occurring quite openly over on eBay.
In a worse case scenario, it could result in more legal challenges than Jagex or any other gaming company would ever survive.