Lured by cheating software and fast progress, more players are moving away from legitimate online gaming, crippling a fast-growing industry.
With the legitimate Internet gaming industry bleeding money, officials plan to launch a special campaign against intellectual property right infringements in the Internet gaming sector.
The three-month-long effort, set to start on January 1, is aimed at shutting down websites that operate unauthorized Internet game servers and sites that provide software to cheat on online games.
Insiders say the number of players using illegal game servers in China far outnumbers those using official servers. The trend not only infringes upon the games' copyrights but also severely curbs profits for game providers.
Statistics also show that at least 60 percent of Chinese Internet game players use software to cheat on online games, which causes a daily loss of 100,000 yuan (US$12,000) for those Internet game producers.
Officials say the abundance of players who cheat has driven away players disillusioned by poor online protection measures.
"We have lost many customers this way, because they do not trust us any more as so many other players are cheating in games," said Yao Jun, vice-president of the Computer Technology Consulting (Shanghai) Co Ltd.
Yao's company once found more than 100,000 users were using cheating software in a popular Internet game called "Mu" that it runs.
"An Internet game sets many obstacles for players to conquer before letting them become a senior player, but cheating software running rampant simply made the game meaningless," said Wu Jun, 32, who once tried Internet games but now prefers gaming at home.
"I really don't know what fun and satisfaction cheating in games to achieve a senior level can bring," he said.
The State Press and Publication Administration, one of the campaign organizers, has received a number of complaints and petitions from officially approved Internet game providers.
"It costs a lot of money and time to develop a good Internet game, but the game can be easily ruined by illegal servers and cheating software," said Yu Yongkan, deputy director of the State Press and Publication Administration at a press conference yesterday.
The Internet gaming industry is now regarded as prosperous. Yu quoted experts as saying the industry revenues are estimated at US$1 billion.
Last year, Internet game providers collected 1 billion yuan (US$120.5 million), and expected to double that this year.
"We are determined to create an environment for the industry to develop in a healthy and rapid way," Yu said.
The administration and four other government departments announced yesterday they will go into the fight against illegal publishing together.
Starting next year, efforts to prevent online gaming crimes will also be included in the government's grand campaign against piracy and intellectual property right infringements, said Fan Weiping, who heads a team specializing in strikes against illegal publications.
He said 32 illegal disc production lines and 170 million pirate and smuggled discs have been seized so far this year, raising the total number of illegal disc products seized to more than 800 million in the past 15 years.
(China Daily December 24, 2003)