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Online gaming industry develops soundly
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-07-21 10:39

Baby-faced Peng Haitao comes across as a shy student who seldom talks. But the 24-year-old college dropout is a hero for many Chinese students hooked to online games.

By selling Aurora Technology, the online gaming company Peng set up in 2005, to China's largest online game company Shanda Interactive Entertainment for 100 million yuan last July, Peng has become one of the youngest instant millionaires in the country.

"It isn't easy for a young man to accumulate that kind of wealth in such short a time," says Zhuge Hui, spokesman of Shanda, which announced launching a 2 billion yuan fund to invest in new Chinese gaming companies after acquiring Peng's Aurora. "But Peng's story shows how much China's fast growing online gaming industry is in need of talent."

Peng's success comes at a time when China's online gaming industry is witnessing unprecedented growth. According to a report by research firm IDC and the Game committee under China's Publishers Association (GPA), the revenue of China's online gaming industry reached 10.57 billion yuan last year, an increase of 61.5 percent year-on-year. The report estimates it will grow to 26.23 billion yuan by 2012.

But the figures themselves do not capture the extent of the game fever in China. For a better understanding of the popularity of online games, one would have to visit Internet cafs, especially those in the country's rural areas. These are typically around 100 sq m - most of them located near schools or colleges - with scantily decorated interiors except for posters and advertisements of the latest games, and row after row of students staring hard at their terminals.

Although these young players are sometimes seen screaming or smoking, the cafs are mostly silent as the players concentrate on their game, with the only discernable sound is that of frantic mouse clicks and keyboard tapping. Most play for a few hours and leave. But some are more committed. They will play days, or even weeks, and on vacations. During these bouts, they live and eat at the Internet cafs themselves. The fee for overnight stays is as low as to 10 to 20 yuan at these cafs.

Most of these Internet cafs sell a variety of drinks and snacks at the counter. Some of the bigger ones even have arrangements with restaurants and offer dishes delivered directly to players' desks as they go about slaying beasts and taking out enemy combatants.

Although over 70 percent of these players have an average monthly income below 2,000 yuan (many of them are students and do not have any income at all), these people are the major consumers of the virtual swords and armors in online games in China.

According to a CNNIC research, the number of online gamers in China has reached 120 million, each spending 7.3 hours per week on average. That has pushed the usage rate of online games in the country to nearly 60 percent, even higher than that for e-mails. The corresponding number in the United States is 35 percent and 91 percent respectively, according to pewinternet.org.

"Online games are so successful in China because other alternatives, such as PC games, console games or even sports - the conventional sweat-and-grime variety - are limited in the country, especially in the remote areas," says Liu Bin, an analyst with research firm BDA China.

"The introverted side of the traditional Chinese culture also means many people find it easier to make friends in the virtual rather than in the real world," he adds.

Source:China Daily 
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