Electronic Arts has confirmed that it will pay about $170m for a 15% stake in Chinese online games operator The9, the sole operator in China of what is believed to be the world's most profitable MMORPG. This week, The9 reported a 27% rise in first-quarter revenues to $35m compared with the same period last year – almost all of which is based on World of Warcraft. The investment deal with EA includes an exclusive licence to operate EA Sports' FIFA Online, a multiplayer online soccer game, in China.
"Despite the seasonal holiday impact in the quarter, we were able to maintain relatively stable user levels for World of Warcraft in China. In the first quarter of 2007, we attained peak and average concurrent Warcraft users in mainland China of approximately 680,000 and 330,000 respectively. As of 31 March 2007, over 7.5 million paid accounts had been activated," said Jun Zhu, chairman and chief executive at The9. However, despite the substantial rise in sales, profits were down considerably from last year. The company reported $8.6m in net income in the quarter, a 37% fall from a year ago.
News source: vnunet