Though a virulent ground for bootleg and pirate media, China has long been a desirable target for game manufacturers due to its high population, and most of the major video game publishers and manufacturers have eased into the region over the last few years. According to Niko Partners, a market research firm, this strategy is paying off, with the region accounting for $467 million in revenue currently, which is expected to grow to $2 billion by 2009.
Online games are driving the success, according to Lisa Hanson, a managing partner at Niko. The online game market "meets the needs of publishers because revenue is earned from fees gamers pay to play games," she says, "rather than from purchases of game software units that have long been the victim of piracy in China."
Currently, more or less all online Chinese gaming is played on a PC, and half of all gameplay takes place in the 350,000 Internet cafes across China. Internet cafes provide online access at a low price point, while also offering a social venue that drives much of the demand for games in the Chinese market, according to the report.
The number of gamers in China is estimated at 28.8 million by Niko's study, which expects the number to grow to 55.5 million by 2009. Niko also predicts that by 2009, 91% of console games will be online, though it didn't specify whether it expects this to hold true in all territories or merely in China.