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The China Angle: '9 News And Rumors'

The latest edition of Gamasutra's regular 'The China Angle' column has Pacific Epoch's Shang Koo taking a look at rumors of an acquisition amongst the region's most popular 9's, u
The latest edition of Gamasutra's regular 'The China Angle' column has Pacific Epoch's Shang Koo taking a look at rumors of an acquisition amongst the region's most popular 9's, urban chic branding for 9you games, and an essay contest gone stymied. 9 Plus 9 Equals Unrealized Potential Chinese IT community portal Donews created a buzz last week when it reported a rumor that China's World of Warcraft operator The9 is in acquisition talks with Chinese casual game powerhouse 9you. More than a year after listing on the Nasdaq, The9 is still a one game company, with 99 percent of its revenues coming from WoW. 9you dominates China's music casual game business with its licensed music games O2Jam and Audition, but has not had success moving into MMORPGs or other casual game genres. A merger would create a comprehensive online game business and instantly elevate the combined company above the rest of the market. The rumor was immediately denied by 9you CEO Wang Zijie. Most industry insiders believe 9you will soon list in Japan, so an acquisition by The9 may not be 9you's best option. If The9 is looking to stabilize its business by acquiring an already successful game and users, advanced casual game operators T2CN (Freestyle) and Shiji Tiancheng (Kart Rider) may be next up on The9's wish list. Both companies, however, also have their own overseas listing plans. 9you Rules The Streets Despite The9's Nasdaq listing and operation of World of Warcraft, 9you may be the more famous company in China. In order to market its online music games to the masses, 9you has spent heavily to market itself as a Chinese entertainment brand and pop culture icon. 9you is the main sponsor for popular Chinese TV show Wu Lin Da Hui, whose new season began in early October. The company held an anniversary party for its music game Audition at Shanghai’s Rojam, one of the most popular discos for the city’s college-age crowd. The party was followed by several concerts in Shanghai featuring well known pop idols. Recently, 9you partnered with Chinese clothing brand Mark Fairwhale to sell 9you branded products in Mark Fairwhale boutique stores. Products include handbags for the company’s music game Super Dancer Online and soccer balls for Extreme Soccer Online. Mark Fairwhale is a nationwide chain with stores in every province. While not yet a luxury clothing brand, Mark Fairwhale’s urban chic style is a perfect match for 9you’s urban dance and street sports games. Back To The Farms While China’s young urban population has brand manager salivating at its potential, Chinese game companies cannot ignore the rural and lower tier city users that make up the majority of China’s online gamers. On an hourly basis, playing online games remains one of the cheapest and most widely available forms of entertainment in China. Gamers in cosmopolitan Shanghai might play because of their love for the game, but gamers in more rural areas play because the only alternative is yet another costume drama/soap opera rerun. Last week, The9 had to reconsider its likely user base for its licensed online game Guild Wars. The9 is holding an essay competition to give away closed beta testing accounts for the game, but received a complaint of discrimination from a self described migrant worker. In the complaint, the writer complained that it will be impossible for him to compete in the essay competition as he has only a third grade education and cannot submit an essay. The9 agreed to offer the writer an account if he can provide proof of his education status. Shanda Licenses JoyChina's Online Game The9 competitor Shanda (Nasdaq: SNDA) announced on October 26 that it has signed a contract with Beijing casual game developer JoyChina to operate JoyChina's in-house developed online game Kung-Fu Masters (Luan Wu Tian Xia). Kung-Fu Masters is a Q-style online fighting game and is currently under alpha testing. The game expands Shanda’s advanced casual game offerings, which includes Nexon’s BNB and Maple Story, as well as another fighting game – CyberStep’s GetAmped. [Shang Koo is an editor at Shanghai-based Pacific Epoch, and oversees research and daily news content on China's new media industries, with a concentration in online games. Pacific Epoch itself provides investment and trade news and publishes a number of subscription products regarding the Chinese technology market.]

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