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Azzor visits China
GUANGZHOU, CHINA - Azzor has the latest news on World of Warcraft's venture into the Chinese market (although we regrettably haven't actually been there). Chinese WoW was released on June 7, 2005 (contrary to the June 6 date published in Blizzard's press release). After taking down the open beta servers, everything was brought back online at 8:20pm local time and WoW China began taking the world's most populous country by storm. Through our Chinese contact, "Fears", Azzor is proud to bring you the latest from the land of the dragon. World of Warcraft is being localized, sold, and supported in China by a company by the name of 9city Interactive. 9city, a Chinese entertainment company, licensed World of Warcraft's launch in China. Under development for several years, the game went into the public beta test earlier this year. Since that beta launch, the Chinese response to World of Warcraft has been overwhelming. [IMG2=center]http://wow.azzor.com/images/china_770.jpg[/IMG2]
A queue of 770 players and a wait time of 160 minutes on a Chinese server during Open Beta.Enjoy queues? Queues for the Chinese beta test regularily exceeded 1000 users. Waits ranged from several minutes to several hours just to get on the server. However, the queues worked. Fears (our Chinese contact) says the server is absolutely lag free once you get in. The response to the release version has been just as huge, and queues nearly as big as beta still remain on the servers. The game currently has 96 different servers (32 pve and 64 pvp), with another 32 on the way. Due to the huge geographic region 9city must cover, the servers are seperated into three large zones. Each zone has its own datacenter - north China, east China, and south China. The new zone coming soon will be dedicated to southwest China. "All fans can access the servers no matter where they are," says Fears. WoW China topped 500,000 concurrent users online during the beta test, which is huge for a game in China. Over two million accounts have been created! A level limit of 45 was in place during the beta test, since 9city didn't want to reveal all of the content for "free". Chinese players were allowed to keep their same characters at release, and then continue the adventure to 60 and into the endgame content. On June 11 2005, the first player reached level 60. [IMG2=right]http://wow.azzor.com/gallery/img_one.php?pid=132[/IMG2]China's software market is different from Western countries, and this is what Fears had to say about WoW box sales in China: "You can download the game from the website, and it's free. You can also buy the CD from sellers; the common version is 10rmb [$1=8.23rmb], and a well decorated set will be 29rmb." [CLASS=Headline]The Chinese MMORPG Market[/CLASS] The Chinese market is dominated by Legend of Mir II (or Legend2 for short). A historical mythical battle adventure MMORPG, Legend2 is "virtual China". Averaging 600,000 concurrent users online (and sometimes more than a million), the game has dominated the Chinese MMORPG scene for the last three years. Legend2 now has over 20 million subscribers, and has been able to trounce all would-be competitors who have attempted to overthrow its top rung as a Chinese MMORPG. The game is run by Shanda, a large Chinese online entertainment company. With over 140 million subscribers across all games, the huge market has made the company's owner the richest man in China. Massively multiplayer online games are some of the most popular games in China. They don't have piracy problems like other games, and generate ongoing revenue streams that entice companies like Shanda to invest in them. "Many new games (such as MU and Lineage2) can't compete with that boring game," says Fears on Shanda's Legend2. Legend2 has very low system requirements (since it was released in 2000), and Fears speculated that that was why many other games have failed to capture a significant share of the market. Additionally, Western style games don't always go over well with the Chinese audience. With a subscription of just over $4 every month, Legend2 is also relatively inexpensive. For a little perspective, Fears explained that salaries in big cities are often more than $1000 per month in China, while it might be just $100 per month in more rural areas. "The Chinese economy is an unbalanced one," says Fears. [CLASS=Headline]Will World of Warcraft succeed in China?[/CLASS] Many Chinese fans think WoW will take the leading place away from Legend2 in the Chinese market. As Fears was quick to point out, Legend2 is now five years old and the graphics are very outdated. Still, impressive graphical games like Lineage2 have been unable to crack the stranglehold that Legend2 has on the market. World of Warcraft requires a more powerful computer than Legend2 does, so it will have difficulties on that front. For a new game however, WoW's requirements are relatively low when compared with other games (like Lineage2). WoW China's pricing is a little bit different than Legend2 and MMORPGs in the US/Europe and elsewhere. 9city is selling game time (by the score), instead of selling subscriptions by the month. Chinese gamers purchase cards for 30rmb ($3.64) worth "600 scores". Nine scores are worth one hour of gameplay, so each card is worth 66 hours 40 minutes. "China has a big market," explained Fears. WoW China's launch could end up being a very profitable venture for 9city and Blizzard. Analysts believe that WoW's success will bring new people to the MMORPG genre in China, and as a result the game won't have a large negative impact on Shanda and other MMO companies in China.
Quote:[CLASS=Headline]What's different in the Chinese version?[/CLASS] Well, besides the fact that everything has been translated to Chinese? Not much. The features are slightly delayed behind the North American, Korean, and European versions. The Chinese release doesn't yet have battlegrounds, but Fears expects them soon. As gamers all over the world have discovered, Fears says "the game is lots of fun". Like those of us in North America, Korea, and Europe, nearly all Chinese gamers dislike gold selling. 9city, like Blizzard, has taken a zero tolerance policy against gold-selling websites. For example, 9city closed over 1000 accounts belonging to the gold seller wowpifa.com after seeing the url advertised in a public chat channel. <hr width="100%"> We'd like to thank Fears for taking the time to educate us at Azzor about WoW China, and we hope you found it interesting. Fears has played an active role in Chinese gaming for several years, including doing translating for blizzardcn.com and wowar.com. He lives in Guangzhou, China - a two hour flight from Shanghai. Thanks Fears!
It is important to note that we believe at least 50% of the gamers who played WoW are new players who are attracted to the 3-D game. In that sense, The 9's game will be expanding the market for everyone. -Safa Rashtchy of Piper Jaffray
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