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The China Angle: Wii Piracy, World Of Warcraft Beaten?

Gamasutra's latest China Angle column sees Pacific Epoch's Shang Koo revealing that Wii piracy is driving up the price of Nintendo's hardware in Shanghai, and that obscure (to Westerners) Zhengtu Online is allegedly out-performing World Of Warcr
Gamasutra's latest China Angle column sees Pacific Epoch's Shang Koo taking a look at the major happenings in the surging Chinese game market, with Wii modchips driving up the price of hardware, and Zhengtu Online allegedly out-performing World Of Warcraft. Zhengtu - Most Profitable Game? Shanghai based online game company Zhengtu Network's tax form showed that the company is recording monthly revenues of 160 million Yuan ($20.7 million) and monthly profit of 120 million Yuan ($15.52 million), reports DoNews.com. Zhengtu Network's in-house developed MMORPG Zhengtu Online recorded 2.8 million daily active players and 860,265 peak concurrent users (PCU) on March 23, making it the second most popular game in China in terms of PCU, after Netease' Fantasy Westward Journey. In comparison, China's World of Warcraft operator The9 recorded 680,000 PCU and US$36.1 million in revenues for the game in fourth quarter of 2006. Zhengtu is free to play and charges for virtual items, but many gamers have complained that the game is the most expensive in China. Zhengtu takes advantage of players' thirst for power by placing no limits on player kill (PK) and allowing players to purchase powerful virtual items. Consequently, the game population is divided into powerful paying players and prey. It is common for players to spend over 1000 Yuan ($129) a month on virtual items and there are reports that some have spent millions of yuan on the game. Coincidentally, Chinese game developer Red Mushroom's CEO Bill Bishop posted an April Fools joke on WoW hunting. In his joke, Bishop claimed that several wealthy WoW players organized real life hunts in China with human as prey. Illegal Supply & Demand? Zhengtu Network hired its core design team for the game from Chinese online game pioneer Shanda Entertainment, and the team might have gotten the idea for the Zhengtu's virtual item based revenue model from their time at Shanda. Recently, ex-Shanda assistant manager Wang Yihui was sentenced to five years in prison for selling virtual items illegally. Wang and two friends sold illegally created virtual items in Shanda's licensed MMORPG Legend of Mir 2 from July 2004 to September 2005, making around 2 million Yuan ($259,000) from the sales. Wii Piracy Means Price Hike? On a different note, I recently visited my local game shop and noticed that the price for Nintendo's Wii consoles have gone up over the past months, with imported hardware units appearing unofficially in Shanghai after the console's launch in November 2006. While prices for Wii started at 3000 Yuan ($388) for these imports when the console was launched, prices soon decreased to around 2100 Yuan ($271) for the Japanese version of the console. However, in the last month, prices for Wii consoles skyrocketed, back up to almost 3000 Yuan again. According to the local shop, the new consoles are equipped with mod chips that can play both US and Japanese back up copies of the games. With pirated Wii games selling for only 10 Yuan ($1.30) per game, demand for Wii consoles rose sharply, warranting the price hike. (The price of the mod chip is also likely factored in to some of the increase, of course.) 9You Expands TV Empire Shanghai-based online game company 9You announced last week that it will partner with Beijing Zhong Sheng TV and Movie Culture Company Limited to produce a 30-episode TV series called Wu Zhe (The Dancer). The two companies will invest a total of 20 million Yuan ($2.6 million) in the show. The TV series is expected to start production this summer. The two companies will also hold a TV competition to select actors for the show. 9You is the largest operator of online music games in China, with a stable of four music games that combine for around 900,000 peak concurrent users. The company has also led the game industry in combining its games with traditional entertainment mediums. In 2006, 9You became a household name when it purchased the naming rights to popular TV dance program Wu Lin Da Hui: Dancing With The Stars. The program is similar to the ABC program of the same name and is produced by Shanghai Media Group (SMG), China's second most powerful media group. In December 2006, 9You put its name on a second TV show - Yu Le Xing Tian Di, an entertainment news program produced by SMG subsidiary Dragon TV. [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. Readers wanting to contact him can e-mail [email protected].]

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