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Computer Game Players Gather in Shanghai
The more than 300 computer game players gathered in Shanghai over the weekend to compete in a national gaming competition are proof that China has its share of top computer game players, but the competition also shows that the country still isn't capable of creating its own high-level games.

Competitors at the weekend event began playing qualifying tournaments in April to earn a spot in the finals of the 2002 China Internet Gaming. But most of the com-petition has been played using imported softwares, such as FIFA 2002 and Counter-Strike. Chinese software is only used for board games such as Chinese chess and Go.

"This is for sure the world's largest computer game event, as China has the world's largest gamer population," said Lawrence Cheung, the marketing and business director of the China Internet Gaming Department under the Internet Society of China.

Cheung said his organization is talking with the U.S. and European Cyber Athletic Professional League and South Korea's World Cyber Game, which are leading game contest organizers, to form a "Grand Slam" for joystick jocks. While event organizers of estimate that there are 15 million computer game players in the country, creating a market worth 1 billion yuan (US$120.48 million) a year, most of that money is going to foreign game manufacturers.

"China does have one of the world's largest computer game markets, but the Chinese players are playing all foreign games and the country has no significant game development capability," said Feng Hong, who helped organize the event. "The government doesn't encourage people to play games, as it worries people will spend too much time on it."

New nationwide regulations on Internet cafes ban all computer games that aren't played over the Internet. China's gaming culture has resulted in many domestic firms importing foreign games to make money, while very few invest in game developing.

By contrast, South Korea has recovered from its financial crisis by promoting the development of its gaming industry. Korean game producers hope to reach annual sales of US$800 next year, with US$300 million of that coming from exports.

"South Korea sets up universities for game development, even many government officials come to China to promote the sales of games," said Feng of Korea's effort to boost the industry. "In China, different departments just think of ways to regulate games better, not to help the industry's development."

Feng said the development of games can create more jobs and drive the demand for information products and telecom services.

Organizers admit that some people spend too much time playing games, but it is common to all kinds of entertainment.

(eastday.com November 25, 2002)

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