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Between Halo 2, Half-Life 2, and the new Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, this is the season of the blockbuster video game sequels. This week, EverQuest II, the long-awaited follow-up to the hit fantasy role playing game, joins the fray. And one of the franchise’s most interesting innovations - the virtual economy - is becoming more and more real.

EverQuest geeks have been pawning virtual weapons for real cash on eBay for years. Now the big boys are finally getting into the game. Kazuo Hirai, president of Sony’s U.S. video game division, has says that his company will begin selling downloadable game items for Playstation 2 players. These so-called “mini-transactions,” as Hirai described them, could range from lethal swords to pimped-out rides. This new spin on personalization is expected to debut with the upcoming racing mega-title, Gran Turismo 4. “In the past, it has always been about the performance of the cars,” he says, “but now it’s as much about the human element.”

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