Online gaming in China

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Online gaming in China represents one of the largest and fastest growing Internet business sectors in the world. With 457 million Internet users currently active in China, the country now has the largest online user base in world, of which two-thirds engage in online game play.[1] The average online gamer in China is relatively young (18 to 30 years old), male, and has at least completed a secondary level of education.[2] Demographically the online gaming user base in China is very similar to base of China Internet users, most of whom live in larger cities.[3]

Online games in China fall into two primary categories: MMORPGs and MOCGs, the former have a predilection for persistent online worlds where hundreds to thousands of game players can interact simultaneously; the latter is a generic term for games played competitively online without the existence of a persistent online realm (games as simple as online Ma Jiang and online competitive card games would fall under this category). In 2011, there were over 100 million Chinese MMO gamers.

Official Chinese statistics regarding online gaming state that as of the close of 2006 revenue from China's online gaming industry reached 8 billion RMB or around 1.04 billion US dollars, with earnings reaching around 33 billion RMB or 4.3 billion US dollars. Additionally, while Japanese, American, and South Korean companies have traditionally dominated the market, Chinese developed software now holds a 65% market share on the mainland, with an additional 20 million in revenue generated by users outside of China.[2]

China is the source of some of the largest gaming companies in the world, including Tencent, NetEase and more, and has been increasingly developing and acquiring popular online games throughout the world.

The online gaming market in China grew to $1.6 billion in 2007,[4] and is expected to exceed $3 Billion in 2010. According to another estimate, in 2007, China's online games market was worth about US$970 million, with over 36 million gamers.[5]

QQ Games is one such popular online game. Growth was driven in part by China's most popular online game, Netease's Fantasy Westward Journey, which now has 1.66 million peak concurrent users. Another contributor is Giant's Zhengtu Online, which has 1.52 million peak concurrent users.[6]

China is now the world's largest online gaming market, contributing one-third to the global revenue in this sector in 2009, or 56 percent of the Asia Pacific total.[7]

There are 368 million Internet users playing online games in the country[8] and the industry was worth US$13.5 billion in 2013. 73% of gamers are male, 27% are female.[9]

Government involvement[edit]

Ministry of Information Industry[edit]

The Ministry of Information Industry (MII) of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国工业和信息化部)formed in the late 1990s through the integration of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Electronics Industry. The agency's primary goals include the regulation of Chinese telecommunications and software companies. Listed here are the ministry's stated objectives involving online gaming:[10]

  • Study and formulate the state's information industry development strategies, general and specific policies, and overall plans, revitalize the electronics and information products manufacturing, telecommunications and software industries, promote the information economy and society.
  • Draw up laws, rules and regulations on electronics and information products manufacturing, telecommunications and software industries, and publish administrative rules and regulations; and supervise the enforcement of laws and administrative rules.
  • Work out technical policies, systems and criteria of the electronics and information products manufacturing, telecommunications and software industries, and technical systems and criteria of the radio and television transmission networks; certificate the entry of telecom networking equipment to networks and manage the entry of telecom terminal equipment to networks; direct the supervision and management of electronics and information products quality.
  • Propel the research and development of electronics and information products manufacturing, telecommunications and software industries, organize research of major scientific and technological development projects, and digestion, absorption and creation of imported technologies, and promote the industrialization of scientific and technological research results; support the development of native industry.

The ministry is also responsible for a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the number and prominence of natively produced online games. One example of such involvement is the inclusion of online gaming in the 2006–2010 plan for software and information service development.[2]

General Administration of Press and Publication[edit]

The General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国新闻出版总暑) is responsible for monitoring and regulating publication of print based media, electronic media, and audio-visual products (including online games).[11] The ministry has also been instrumental in combating the growing problem of Internet addiction and game addiction in China by teaming up with eight other government outlets concerned with the growing effect of game play on China's youth. The other concerned entities are as follows: Central Civilization Office, Ministry of Education, Chinese Communist Youth League, Ministry of Information Industry, Ministry of Public Security, All China Women's Federation, and China's Care for the Next Generation Work Commission.[12]

The GAPP also initiated the China National Online Game Publication Project in 2004. The intent of the project was to promote native game development through the use of government subsidies to game developers. In its third year, the project is to run through at least 2008, and has provided an estimated 300 million RMB to 16 Chinese game development companies.[13]

State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television[edit]

China's State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) (国家广播电影电视总局) affected the world of Chinese online games in 2004 by instating a blanket ban on computer game related commercials in the state-run media. The only company to directly contradict this ban is Chinese game provider The9, which teamed with Coca-Cola to jointly promote the release of the popular Western MMORPG World of Warcraft in 2005. Besides this instance, the online game market has thrived without much media promotion.[14]

Government programs[edit]

Online game anti-addiction system[edit]

The online game anti-addiction system is a system developed according to the "Online game anti-indulged system standard" issued by the General Administration of Press and Publication of the People's Republic of China. The main incentive for teenagers to indulge in online games is that most online games have set up experience value growth and virtual item rewards. These rewards need to be obtained, mainly by long-term online accumulation, which leads some teenagers to indulge in it. The online game anti-indulged system is aimed at the above-mentioned incentives for minors to indulge in online games, and uses technical means to limit the online game time of minors. This system also can be called "fatigue system" or "Anti-indulged system".


The "Online game anti-indulged system" is designed to punish the game's revenue in an unhealthy game time by punitively, forcing the player to self-manage and reasonably arrange learning, work, rest, and entertainment time. The purpose is to prevent young people from using too much time in online games and ruin their studies, avert increasing a large number of social problems.

Implementation process[edit]

In August 2005, the Chinese mainland government informed China's seven largest online game companies (Shanda, Netease, The9, Guangtong, Kingsoft, Sina, Sohu, etc.) to release the "Development Standards for Online Game Anti-Indulged System", and To the government to develop anti-indulged system plan, in September 2005, online game operators installed the online game anti-indulged system in their own products, and carried out trial operation. In March 2006, the basic development work was completed and released. "Notice on the Protection of Minors' Physical and Mental Health in Implementing the Online Game Anti-Indulged System", decided to launch the online game anti-indulged system in China from April 15, 2007, and ordered to fully implement it on July 16.[15][16]

Since July 2007, all major online game operators have put into use the anti-indulged system, requiring registered players to provide ID card, name and other information. The online game operators use this information to check with the public security department. If the information is correct and the player is greater than or equal to If you are 18 years old, you will not be included in this system. Otherwise, it will be included in the anti-indulged system.[16]


The anti-indulged system is controlled by the cumulative online time of all game characters of the online game player.

According to the regulations promulgated by the General Administration of Press and Publication of the People's Republic of China: The system will give a reminder if the game time of the player is monitored for nearly three hours. If it is more than three hours, the system will continue to warn the game players not to continue playing. At the same time, in three to five hours, the game's game revenue (including experience, loss rate, honor value, reputation value, etc.) will drop to 50%, and will not be available after five hours. The system also stipulates that the player must play the full game time, and the account must pass the five-hour offline time accumulation interval in order to be enabled normally.[15][17]

The detailed implementation provisions are as follows:

  • When the player is online, the cumulative online time will be tracked. This will be referred as "Cumulative online time".
  • When the player is offline, the cumulative offline time will also be tracked. This will be referred as "Cumulative offline time".
  • If the cumulative online time does not exceed 3 hours, the player will gain normal in-game rewards. The player will be reminded of his online time every hour.
  • If the cumulative online time exceeds 3 hours and enters the 4th and 5th hour ("fatigue gaming time"), the player should gain 50% less in-game rewards (this include any data associated with the player's progress in the game, including but does not limit to experience points, honor points, reputation points and titles, as well as any in-game properties, including but does not limit to items, equipments and in-game currency). The player should also be reminded every 30 minutes.
  • If the cumulative online time exceeds 5 hours and enters the 6th hour ("unhealthy gaming time"), the player should no longer gain any in-game rewards. The player should also be warned every 15 minutes.

Vulnerabilities and disputes[edit]

Although online game companies can verify the identity of the registrant when registering, so as to achieve the purpose of identifying minors, minors can avoid being restricted by the anti-indulged system by stealing the identity certificate of the adult.[18]

The General Administration of Press and Publication of the People's Republic of China has announced that this system standard is a normative document. Game operators have cooperated with government decrees to implement anti-indulged systems, but there are still many controversies in monitoring people's freedom. At the same time, due to changes in the agreement between the player and the online game agent, various disputes between the player and the online game agent may result.

Requiring users to submit real-name information may increase the risk and harm of information disclosure.

Minors may avoid punitive measures of game time limits by registering and operating multiple game accounts, and this may even result in extended game play.

Game companies[edit]

The major online game companies in China include NetEase, Tencent, Shanda, Kongzhong, The9, Netdragon, Giant Interactive Group, Perfect World and ChangYou.[1]

By revenue[edit]

The 10 largest online game companies by revenue in 2017:[9]

  1. Tencent
  2. NetEase
  3. YY
  4. 37 Interactive
  5. Perfect World
  6. Elex
  7. IGG
  8. Alpha Group
  9. Century Huatong Group (owner of Shanda)
  10. Kunlun Tech

Popularity statistics[edit]

In order to gauge the popularity of online games, both in China and internationally, three benchmarks are commonly implemented. The first is peak concurrent users (PCU), which is the maximum numbers of players online simultaneously at a given time. A high PCU number signifies that a game has a large base of constant user participation, which is essential for the survival of an online world. The second statistic used is the daily active player base; this number is essentially a count of the number of disparate users who sign on in a given 24-hour period. This statistic differs from PCU simply because of its longer time span but the daily user base is still a good quantifier of popularity and usage.

The third statistic is simply the total number of registered users for a specific game or service, this statistic is significantly more problematic because most, if not all, online games do not limit the user to a single account or user name. For example, some games claim millions of registered users; a disingenuous statistic given that the most popular MMORPGs in China usually garner only 800,000 to one million peak concurrent users.[19] Thus, while registered user numbers can be quite impressive, they are not as accurate a gauge of popularity as the other aforementioned statistics.[citation needed][original research?]


In 2010, there were 25 investments made into Chinese online gaming companies. Of the 25 investments 20 of these deal disclosed financial details. As a group these 20 deals combined for a total of $137 million USD in investment.[20]

Tencent Games[edit]

Tencent Games is the Interactive Entertainment Division (aka IED) of Tencent.

Shanda Interactive Entertainment[edit]

Shanda produces and supports many popular MMORPGs. The company is significant because it introduced a new online payment system with the release of Legend of Mir 2 in 2001. Instead of charging users for the initial purchase of the game, Shanda gave the software away free-of-charge and decided to charge users for time spent playing in game. This payment system specifically counteracted piracy because the company could maintain easier control over the time users spent in the game, rather than attempt to limit the game’s distribution.[21]

Shanda maintains a large number of MMORPGs in China developed by Western, Korean and native Chinese companies; the latter two regions produce Shanda’s most popular games. The company also maintains numerous casual games as well, with platforms supporting chess and other non-persistent world games.[22]


Netease, a popular online portal in China, also branched out in the space of MMORPGs with the release of Westward Journey. The game, based on ancient westward travels on the Silk Road (a popular theme from Chinese developed MMORPGs), has gone through two iterations; it was re-released as Westward Journey II due to numerous problems with the initial release, and its game engine was used to develop Fantasy Westward Journey, which is currently the most popular MMORPG in China (based on PCU numbers).[23]


The9 (第九城市) is similar to Shanda Entertainment, it specifically maintains and produces MMORPG content for the Chinese gamer base. The9 is notable because of its partnership with Blizzard Entertainment in bringing World of Warcraft (the most popular MMORPG outside of Asia) to China. World of Warcraft is the most popular western MMORPG in Asia, and one of the most popular in China in general. Recent statistics place its peak concurrent users at around 688,000, easily among the top MMORPGs in the country.[24] The9 also implemented a pay-for-time system for the game, which differs from the monthly subscription payment structure used by Blizzard in other territories.

In April 2009, World of Warcraft owner Activision Blizzard announced it had selected The9 competitor NetEase to operate the game in China. The9's license expired on June 7, 2009.[25]


Because of the high amount of software piracy in China, many foreign game companies have been reluctant to enter the country's market with single player or console games. Instead, they have focused on selling online titles such as massively multiplayer online games as income from these titles comes largely from subscription fees or in game item purchases rather than the purchase price of the title itself.

Nintendo claims that, as of February 14, 2008, China remains the main source of manufacturing pirated Nintendo DS and Wii games.[26]


As of December 2005, there were an estimated 100,000 Chinese employed as "farmers", video game players who work to acquire virtual currency or items in online games so they can be sold to other players for real currency.[27]

Government controls[edit]

The Beijing Reformatory for Juvenile Delinquents claimed in 2007 that a third of its detainees were influenced by violent online games or erotic websites when committing crimes such as robbery and rape.[28] In a high-profile case from October 2004, 41-year-old Qiu Chengwei was sentenced to death for murdering 26-year-old Zhu Caoyuan over a dispute regarding the sale of a virtual weapon the two had jointly won in the game Legend of Mir 3.[29] Also, in September 2007, a Chinese man in Guangzhou died after playing Internet video games for three consecutive days in an Internet cafe.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chinese Online Game Market Roundup, Q3 2009
  2. ^ a b c People's Daily Online. "China's Online Game Industry on a Roll". 2007.
  3. ^ China Internet Network Information Center. "19th Statistical Survey Report on Internet Development in China". January 23, 2007.
  4. ^ "Online games market in China to reach $3 bln by 2010". ZDNet. March 22, 2008. Retrieved November 27, 2014.
  5. ^ Vivian Yeo (March 17, 2008). "Making a play for China's online games". ZDNet. Retrieved November 27, 2014.
  6. ^ James Brightman (March 19, 2008). "Chinese Games Market to Exceed $3 Billion in 2010, says Pearl Research". GameDaily. Archived from the original on March 20, 2008. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  7. ^ Hao Yan (2010-06-23). "China's online game revenue tops the world". Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  8. ^ Paul Bischoff (2014-07-22). "China's mobile internet users now outnumber its PC internet users". Tech In Asia. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  9. ^ a b Johanna Armstrong (2018-04-12). "China's 2017 Game Industry Market Report". Youxi Story. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  10. ^ Ministry of Information Industry - China Nuclear Forces
  11. ^ "General Administration of Press and Publishing of PRC".
  12. ^ "Chinese Ministries Schedule Anti-Addiction Game System". China Tech News. April 11, 2007.
  13. ^ TDC Trade."Business Alert - China". January 2005.
  14. ^ Shang Koo (April 17, 2007). "The China Angle: Rumors And Regulations". Gamasutra.
  15. ^ a b "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 2010-11-22. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  16. ^ a b Koo, Shang. "The China Angle: Rumors And Regulations". Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  17. ^ "未成年人网络游戏成瘾综合防治工程工作方案 - 维基文库,自由的图书馆". Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  18. ^ [ "�Ϻ����α�"]. 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2018-12-08. replacement character in |title= at position 1 (help)
  19. ^ Gamasutra."The China Angle". April 3, 2007.
  20. ^ The China Perspective."E-Commerce, Online Games Lure 64% of Investments in China's Internet Market". February 15th, 2011.
  21. ^ Gamasutra."The China Angle". March 20, 2007.
  22. ^ Shanda Entertainment
  23. ^ Gamasutra."The China Angle". April 3, 2007
  24. ^ Shang Koo (April 3, 2007). "The China Angle: Wii Piracy, World Of Warcraft Beaten?". Gamasutra.
  25. ^ Rory Maher (August 28, 2009). "'World Of Warcraft' Loss Burns Chinese Gamer The9". Business Insider. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  26. ^ "Nintendo Asks U.S. to Address Video Game Piracy Problems Worldwide" (Press release). Nintendo of America Inc. 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
  27. ^ Barboza, David (2005-12-09). "Ogre to Slay? Outsource It to Chinese". The New York Times.
  28. ^ "China launches campaign to crack down on Web porn". Xinhua. 2007-04-12.
  29. ^ Cao Li (2005-06-08). "Death sentence for online gamer". China Daily.
  30. ^ "Man in China dies after three-day Internet session". Reuters. 2007-09-17.

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