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China's online gaming addiction to swell in the year of the Rat

Michael Zenke

It probably shouldn't be surprising to learn that the burgeoning community of online gamers in China is growing quickly, spurred by the staggering array of free-to-play titles available in that market. The China View site is reporting on a study conducted over the course of 2007 into the country's gaming habits. Last year's 48 million strong community is expected to pass 59 million players by the end of this year. The marketplace in 2006 racked up an impressive 9.36 billion yuan (1.2 billion US dollars) ... which grew by 57 percent over the course of last year.

That prediction is in keeping with the general outlook for 2008 according to the Chinese Zodiac. Gamasutra Commentator Frank Yu looks back at last year's blockbuster success for the Chinese gaming market, particularly the online portion, while forecasting successes all around for partnerships this year. Yu specifically forsees good financial times for Zhengtu Online, a title we recently discussed because of the sordid gambling component to the game.

I find all of this fascinating, from a cultural as well as business perspective. Here you have a culture whose youth is eating up the concept of RMT and microtransactions, making companies that use these business models extremely wealthy. The government itself is building a business complex meant to spur on investment into the online gaming/virtual worlds sector of the economy. This is a country literally building the future of online gaming for the rest of the world. At the same time, though, that same government is decrying online gaming as 'spiritual opium'. I've been reading about the country recently, and these contradictions seem somewhat petty compared to more serious social issues. It's important to keep in mind just the same: online gaming in the West has nothing on future of Eastern online gaming

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