Electronic Arts has acquired a stake in Chinese publisher The9, Gamasutra reports. The US-based publishing powerhouse will have 15% of the The9's common stock, which amounts to US $167 million. The two companies also announced a licensing agreement that makes The9 the sole publisher of FIFA Online in mainland China.
EA had previously half-denied reports of an investment, saying that at the time there was "no signed agreement with The9." Rumors of an investment date back to at least September 2006. EA Asia Online president Hubert Larenaudie stated that he believes this is "another significant step" in building EA's presence in Asia.
It is unclear how this arrangement might affect The9's relationship with EA rival Vivendi, who licenses the massively popular World of Warcraft to the publisher.