New data from analyst group Pearl Research shows that China's online games market grew 63 percent in 2008 to a total $2.8 billion.
In its new Games Market in China report
, Pearl Research forecasts that the Chinese online market will be worth more than $5.5 billion by 2012.
Online operators in China have apparently seen little downturn in their business during the world economic crisis, with six companies now making revenues greater than $200 million (Tencent, Changyou, The9, Netease, Shanda and Giant).
The most popular online game in China during 2008 was Neteaseís Fantasy Westward Journey
, with 1.8 million peak concurrent users. This was followed by Giantís Zhengtu Online
on 1.5 million, Tencentís Dungeon and Fighter
on 1.2 million and Blizzardís World of WarCraft
on 1.0 million.
Out of a total of 298 million Internet users in China, 70 percent are under the age of 30. The reticence of this demographic to cut down on low-cost entertainment such as online gaming is seen as one of the main reasons for the marketís continued growth.
"Trends to track in 2009 include the growth of social networking sites in China, with over 55 million users, and their cross-pollination with games," said Pearl Research managing director Allison Luong.
"One overall concern is the lack of diversification with many game operators relying on a single title for the bulk of revenues. In addition, a glut of content with more than 200 games on the market makes releasing a breakout hit increasingly difficult."