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China Busy Developing Online Games

Chinese online gaming companies are turning to games originally designed by Chinese though they dug their first barrel of gold by distributing foreign games in China.

Three years after the first online game reached China, a list of the five most popular Chinese-made online games, as selected by about 180,000 players, was released Thursday. "The one who is able to develop its own games will win the game in the future," said Chen Tianqiao, CEO of the Shanda Networking.

His company, a leading online game provider, was well known for distributing the Korean online game Legend, but promoted its own The World of Legend last year, which has become one of the five most popular domestic games.

Chinese Internet service providers, like Netease and Sohu, also eye domestically developed online gaming.

Last year Netease saw success with its A Chinese Odyssey Online II, and in January it launched a new one, A Chinese Odyssey Magic, as an ambitious move this year.

According to Netease's finance report of the third quarter last year, online gaming produced US$6.8 million, or 38.42 percent of the company's operating revenue.

China's online gaming industry reported a sales revenue of 1.3 billion yuan (about US$157 million) in 2003 with more than 13.8 million online players, said the report issued by the China Game Publisher Association (CGPA) and the US-based research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) on Jan. 15.

However, Korean online games have taken up some 70 percent of the market shares while homebred ones occupied 10 percent.

Shanda Networking has just reached an agreement with Korean game maker ACTOZ, the producer of Legend, after more than a year of negotiation about the game's operating authorization in China.

This roused discussion in the industry about how to cooperate with foreign counterparts and develop the country's own games, said Kou Xiaowei, deputy director of the Audio-Visual & Electronic Publication Management Department under the State Administration of Press and Publication.

"More and more domestic companies have realized that they have to research and develop their own games so as to compete with foreign firms," Kou said.

Chinese online game makers have their own advantage against foreigners, said Wang Jinbo, general manager of the Taiwan-based Soft-World International Corp. "Our products have cultural proximity with customers."

Players began to pay to play the first homebred online game Legend of Knights Online since December last year but the number of players has not reduced but continued rising from 70,000 to 80,000 now.

The success of Legend of Knights Online was attributed to its story line based on popular Chinese martial arts and Chinese-style love affairs, similar to the story told in the Oscar winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Chinese players are more fascinated by the Xia, or Chinese knights, than "monsters and soldiers" often seen in overseas games, said Chen Wen, consultant with CCID Consulting Co. Ltd.

One third of the online games in China has a similar story line with Legend of Knights Online, he said.

Origin Systems' Ultima Online has not been as popular with Chinese as in the United States though it reached here in years.

Domestic game designers become popular while companies are eager for high-quality and creative original works.

Tianqing Digital, a local game maker, launched a game designing contest on Jan. 6, setting up a prize of 1.2 million yuan (US$144,985) to headhunt good designers.

(Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2004)

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