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China's ZT Online moves away from RMT, still earns as much as WoW

James Egan

We've mentioned the Chinese MMO Zhengtu Online (ZT Online) in the past. It's one of the most controversial MMOs in existence, largely due to its focus on RMT and the hardcore extremes its players go to in order to get ahead. ZT Online, developed by Giant Interactive, is very much a blending of a virtual casino and fantasy MMO; gaming security site PlayNoEvil once described ZT Online as "EVE Online meets Las Vegas." Not surprisingly, the title frequently makes headlines in China, and occasionally in the west for the legal issues which crop up in regards to ZT Online.

PlayNoEvil reports, "Giant Interactive had been running the 'crack house' of free-to-play gaming with its (once? still?) immensely popular game ZT Online. In the third quarter, the company moved away from its heavy reliance on purchased items towards steadier playing." That is to say, they're cutting back on the extent to which the game, and its gear, is monetized. It's not often that an MMO developer or publisher assesses the situation and intentionally opts to earn less money, but in terms of ZT Online's longevity, Giant Interactive Chairman and CEO Yuzhu Shi believes this is the right way to expand the title's playerbase. Despite this shift in business model, average revenue per user dropped to roughly $41, suggesting they're still earning a great deal of money from the title, years into its life. Indeed, ZT Online is enjoying profits per-user revenue comparable to World of Warcraft in China, PlayNoEvil concludes.

Clarification: Comparison between ZT Online and World of Warcraft revenues in China is on a per-user basis. Updated text in bold.

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