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FIFA Online Coming to China
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The9, a Chinese online game operator, finalized its equity investment from Electronic Arts Inc., in Shanghai yesterday. In addition, the two partners announced a licensing agreement that grants The9 exclusive rights to publish EA Sports' FIFA Online on the Chinese mainland.

The equity investment, worth around US$167 million, will give EA a 15 percent stake in The9. The agreement is part of EA's long-term strategy to build up its Asia online competitiveness by teaming up with established regional operators, and fits in with The9's plan to increase its gaming library on the Chinese market.

EA Sports FIFA is a major international sports franchise for EA and has received widespread acclaim in Asia.  Last year, EA and Seoul-based Neowiz partnered to launch EA Sports FIFA Online in Korea. It rapidly became one of Korea's most popular games with over 4.4 million registered subscribers, according to EA's company data.

"EA will be a strong partner for us in the rapidly expanding online game market in China." said Zhu Jun, Chairman and CEO of The9. "We are seeing strong interest in online sports games in China with 2008 Beijing Olympics around the corner as well as the FIFA World Cup in 2010, and FIFA Online is set to be a top favorite in the Chinese market."

Hubert Larenaudie, President of EA Asia Online, praised the move by saying, "This is another significant step in EA's strategy to build an online presence in Asia. The9's proven expertise will be a tremendous advantage in bringing FIFA Online to a growing market and we look forward to partnering with them to bring the best online football gaming experience to millions of Chinese gamers and football fans. "

The9 Ltd. is a leading online game operator in China, focusing its activities mainly on running and developing high-quality games for the Chinese online games market. It is also China's lead operative of MMORPGs, with its library including MU Online, World of Warcraft, Soul of The Ultimate Nation, all good money-spinners. It also possesses exclusive licenses to host additional MMORPGs and advanced casual games. Another exciting project is its work on developing the a 3D fantasy MMORPG game, Fantasy Melody Online.

Yesterday, The9 also published its agreement with another big game company, G10 Entertainment Korea Corp, to operate Audition 2, an advanced casual dancing online game, on the Chinese mainland through a wholly-owned subsidiary. The agreement will also give the gaming heavyweight exclusive first refusal to the license for Audition 3 and two more of G10's latest online games. 

(China.org.cn May 22, 2007)

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