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Survey: 200 Million Online Gamers In China, As Warcraft Returns In 'Closed Beta'

Around 200 million internet users in China play online games, with double-digit yearly growth, according to a new survey, as World Of Warcraft prepares for a free, 'existing users only' restart in the region.
Around 200 million internet users in China play online games, or about 64 percent of total web users in the country, representing double-digit growth from a year ago, according to a new survey by the China Internet Network Information Center. The figures measure internet usage in China as of June 30, 2009, and place online gaming as the sixth most-used application for the web, analysts at Stern Agee reported, citing the survey. Online game usage is up 16 percent year-on-year. "This may explain why the average number of hours spent per internet user per week went up to 18 hours from 16.6 hours at year-end 2008", Stern Agee analysts said. According to the survey, Chinese web users use the internet primarily for music, followed by news, instant messaging, search, video, gaming, email, blogs, forums, and shopping, in that order. Driving this increased internet usage in China is greater internet penetration in homes, and a younger demographic that is web-savvy. Sixty-four percent of internet users in China are between the ages of 10 and 30 years. Stern Agee also noted the turbulent transition of Blizzard's World of Warcraft from its former Chinese operator The9 to rival NetEase. The game has been down for more than a month as government regulators work to approve the operation. Citing highlights from the recent Chinajoy gaming convention, Stern Agee noted, "At least now we know there is an amicable solution, which is a closed beta to be launched on July 30". As a recent CNAnalyst.com post comments of the apparent resolution: "This closed beta was granted to Netease.com by [Chinese government agency] GAPP. According to GAPP's requirements, the beta will be free of charge, and it will be limited to players who already own a WoW account. Registrations of new accounts are not permitted during the beta." Blizzard is "currently revising [World Of Warcraft's content according to GAPP's suggestions", and it's likely that a full launch will be permitted when these as yet unrevealed changes are completed.

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