According to Chinese research firm Niko Partners, Chinaâ??s 46 million gamers spent $1.7 billion on online games in 2007, up 71 per cent from 2006.

Factfile: China

“Advanced casual and casual online games made up 21 per cent of the total, and new Flash-based casual versions of popular MMO and RTS games demonstrated the hardcore gamers’ appetite to play casual games along with subscription MMOs,” said the firm.

Online game revenue in China is expected to reach $2.5bn in 2008 and $6bn in 2012, for a 29 per cent compound annual growth rate in the five-year period.

[img :354]Much of this activity has been driven by economic shifts. Niko’s latest market report shows that China boasts a hardcore gaming community of around 14m who play online games for more than 22 hours a week – they play online, LAN, and single-player offline PC games. And not just at the country’s 185,000 Internet cafés, but also increasingly on their PCs at home, thanks to falling hardware prices and higher disposable income.

And while most of the consumer games activity is around PC games, more and more are turning to imported consoles – albeit illegally imported Wiis, 360s, PS2 and PS3s. According to Niko Partners console unit sales hit 2.48 million units in 2007, up 75 per cent over 2006.

The region’s notorious piracy still an issue for packaged goods, which is challenged by digital downloads and counterfeits, but in the face of this offline PC game sales were up 56 per cent in 2007 – which shows an increasing sophistication and savvy amongst consumers, according to Niko, whose report said “Chinese gamers are showing that they like to buy the legitimate copies to ensure quality and to get customer support.”

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