Game talkChina gov’t rejects WoW again

 Posted by (Visited 5209 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Nov 032009

Massively is reporting that WoW is caught in the battle between the Ministry of Culture and the General Administration of Press and Publication over who gets to regulate online games — and has been denied permission to operate (again).

The Ministry of Culture was, I believe, the arm of the government there that recently banned gold farming, but also the one that last gave WoW permission to operate there.

The GAAP was the group that issued the recent regulations on foreign companies operating in China.

The Ministry of Culture gave the last approval; the GAPP is the one now saying that the game is in “gross violation” of regs.

Massively’s got all the links for you!

Game talkVirtual goods keep growing…

 Posted by (Visited 5636 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Oct 142009

Sort of an addendum to the previous two posts.

Thanks to the astonishing growth of games on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, the U.S. virtual goods market is poised to clear $1 billion in revenues in 2009, up more than 50 percent from a year earlier, according to a new report.By 2010, revenues could hit $1.6 billion as users become more comfortable paying for virtual goods in small transactions that are executed in a seamless fashion.

via Virtual goods sales to hit $1 billion in 2009 as social games pay off big | VentureBeat.

Meanwhile, CNet reports that China’s online game market grew almost 40% in Q2 of 2009, reaching over $900m. The bulk of the revenues go to three companies: Tencent, Shanda, and NetEase, which together have over 50% of the market.

Game talkChina says no to foreign investment in VWs, MMOs

 Posted by (Visited 4843 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Oct 142009

These days, it’s more likely that the money flows in the other direction, but it’s interesting to see nonetheless:

Over the weekend the government run General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and National Copyright Administration issued regulations designed to limit the influence foreign companies have in that region. US companies that wish to operate in China will need to license their content rather then enter into a joint venture.

Virtual Worlds News: China Bans Foreign Investment In Online Games, Virtual Worlds.

Game talkA classic game revived in China backfires

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Sep 052009

Several days ago, Shanda published some screen captures which the players sadly found to include class restrictions and commercial stores … the RMB will dominate everything … if a player has cash, he can purchase equipment to upgrade without having to go through the trouble to combat monsters …

The players decided to call for a boycott.  They established Baidu forums and QQ groups to protest the “false advertising” by Shanda to “take advantage of their feelings.”  Some of the leaders even called for the players to block the entrances to the various cities at 2pm, August 28 when the game officially opened.

At one entrance, more than 40 characters stood still.  They wore cloth dresses and cloth shoes and stood shoulder to shoulder.  Other players cannot enter.  Two hours later, more than 2,000 people entered the chat room.  Meanwhile, several thousand people were blocking the gates of the various cities in the game.

EastSouthWestNorth: The Legend Returns

The link is a screenshot-heavy post detailing the story of what happened when the game Hot-Blooded Legend was revived as an RMT-heavy title called The Legend Returns. It was met with protests… the page has two different accounts of the event, here’s a snippet from the other:

The reason why this mass incident occurred was that the new version of Legend was over-commercialized and quite inconsistent with their advertising claim that the “original flavor” would be preserved.  In previous versions of the game, victories and social rank depend on persistence.  As long as the player is “hardworking” and is brave and strong in combating monsters, he can get promoted in rank and obtain more equipment.  In fact, he can proceed to have “romance” and even “marriage” in a life of leisure.

Game talkUO goes to China (again)

 Posted by (Visited 6574 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Jul 242009

EA to redesign Ultima for China, sez the news.

Of course, we have been here before, sort of. Some anecdotes:

  • During the early days of UO, when PKing was rampant, we notice a major issue in servers hosted along the Pacific Rim — much higher rates of PKing, harassment complaints, etc. We dig in, and it turns out that we were seeing lots of warfare and animosity between players from Asia and players from the US.
  • Hong Kong servers suffered for a while from triad gang wars being imported into UO. Guilds would form that matched the gangs, and the streets of Britain would run with simulated real-life blood.
  • Years later, I visit China, and I am surprised that anyone even knows who I am, since China never officially got a UO release. I was told that UO servers running either pirated servers or gray shard servers probably hit as many as 400,000 players across China.

The article I have read on this doesn’t offer a lot of details, but I think there is a fair amount of potential for this project.

Jul 012009

The PlaynoEvil blog has the best summary i have seen of the key issues — and they still have wideranging implications!

– If the service is shut off, customers are entitled to a refund of unused currency.

– “virtual currency should be exchanged only for virtual goods and services provided by the issuer of the currency” (this would cause problems for a lot of the third party currency folks here in the US and elsewhere)

– Companies already involved in virtual currency trading are required to register with the local cultural affairs bureau within three months.

– Minors may not buy virtual money. THIS IS POTENTIALLY HUGE. If enforced, this would essentially shut down most MMOs that use the Free-to-Play business model.

— via Chinese Government DOES NOT ban Gold Farming – Puts Free-to-Play in Jeopardy Instead – PlayNoEvil Game Security News & Analysis.

Jul 012009

What it has banned is spending virtual currency for real world items. In other words, it is more about defending the real world currency than anything else. I have mentioned in the past that many people in China regard the QQ coin (Tencent’s virtual currency) as solid enough to put savings in. Sounds like maybe the government thinks that is a bad idea.

This is a government restriction on the use of the quasi-Paypal-like currencies (mainly QQ coins) that are used extensively in China to pay for virtual game stuff. As announced they can now only be used to pay for virtual stuff, and you can’t buy real things with them as game companies were allowing to happen, nor can you gamble. This therefore is not about what gold farming clients do: use real money to buy these virtual currencies; it’s the mirror image. And it’s not about the major trade in gold farming such as World of Warcraft, which relates to other types of virtual currency. And it’s not about buying/selling in-game items. And it’s not about the power-levelling of avatars. Bottom line: it’s not about gold farming.

ICTs for Development

[via a commenter, via Blue’s News]

Game talkChinese jail for virtual currency extortion

 Posted by (Visited 6318 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Jun 092009

So this gang of bullies strongarms a guy in an Internet cafe in China, and extorts a bunch of virtual goods and a pile of QQ coins from him. He gets caught, and the court rules that since the virtual goods were purchased, this was a valid case of extortion. Thee of the gang got fines, and the ringleader — three years in jail!

According to the Xinhua news agency, the man, along with three others, assaulted another man in the cafe, forcing him to give up various virtual goods and 100,000 yuan ($14,700) worth of the virtual currency known as QQ coins. The coins are the currency utilized by the major Chinese web portal, Tencent. It is used for the purchase of online goods and premium services for supported titles.

— Virtual Currency Extortion Leads to Three Years of Prison in China.

It isn’t too surprising that this sort of thing is getting taken seriously there; industry experts in China assess the virtual goods market there as being 25 times the size of the US market. (You can download an interesting report on this here, or just check out this slide show).

Game talkNew China MMO stats

 Posted by (Visited 8941 times)  Game talk  Tagged with:
Apr 092009
  • 63% growth in 2008
  • $2.8b in revenue
  • Six operators brought in more than $200m last year…
  • …but each of them tended to have just one title that did it for them
  • Social networking continues to grow there (55m users) and cross-pollinate with games

Top games in terms of concurrency:

  • Netease’s Fantasy Westward Journey : 1,800,000 concurrent users.
  • Giant’s Zhengtu Online : 1,500,000 (this is the one that’s controversial for its “gambling” nature)
  • Tencent’s Dungeon and Fighter: 1,200,000 (see here, sidescroller)
  • Blizzard’s World of Warcraft: 1,000,000

from China’s MMO market to hit $5.5b by 2012 // News.

Game talkChina’s taxman came

 Posted by (Visited 5361 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , , ,
Nov 032008

Virtual Worlds News: China Levies 20% Tax on Virtual Currencies.

This is completely unsurprising — after all, levying tax on earnings made via selling virtual goods is something that the US does already (if you make money, they expect a cut, no matter where how how you made it) and it’s a lot more common in China than here. But there’s a wrinkle:

The ruling applies to QQ coins and the like as well as gameworld currencies, and based on the WSJ report, seems to apply whether or not the value is cashed out.

The announcement, which was distributed to local tax bureaus, specifically takes aim at those who buy virtual currency from gamers and surfers and sell it to others at a mark-up. Taxation officials are granted the right to determine the original price of online virtual currency if the individual fails to provide proof of an original price, it says.

Interestingly, companies seem to be exempt from taxes like these right now, presumably because the government there did so in order to incentivize economic growth in the sector.

However, if the value is not cashed out and taxes are still paid, that could mean (maybe should mean) that the companies are liable if they manage to accidentally delete some of it. In other words, they’re banks.