China's new opiate
Mark Asher - News - 06/09/04 - Link

Massively multiplayer games are a big deal in China these days, and players are starting to do that Korean MMO thing -- drop dead, attempt suicide, etc., according to the China Daily News.

In China, as everywhere, compulsive obsessives are attracted to online games like moths to a flame. On March 6, 2004, a 31-year-old Legend of Mir II addict literally dropped dead after playing the game non-stop for 20 hours in a Chengdu internet caf¨¦. Soon after this tragedy, a Shanghai online game player suffered serious burns in an attempted self-immolation after the Shanda Customer Service Department expropriated his virtual equipment for The Legend of Mir II that he had bought from other players for 10,000 RMB. On April 11 the first case of online virtual currency fraud, to the tune of 15,000 RMB, was exposed by Dalian police.

And man, do some of these gaming services attract the players!

In 2001,, a company that started out with elementary games like Chinese Chess and Go, became the world's biggest online game website when it chalked up 20 million subscribers and a record 170,000 simultaneous users. Today, has 130 million subscribers and has scored in excess of 580,000 simultaneous players.

RPGs dominate the online gaming market in China. Interestingly, the article also says that players have set up private servers with pirated copies of games and that's a growing concern.

Private servers were also born out of player discontent with the boring, repetitive exercises incorporated into online games purely as a money spinning tactic. They emerged through players who had abandoned official websites and built a virtual world of their own. But the growing number of users has tainted the originality of private servers. They set up shop-soiled servers using pirated games and solicit customers through adlets. Most are now paid websites that share the market with official game servers and make even more money, taking into account the rate of returns. There are calls to combat and destroy private servers, and certain online companies demand that they be commercialized. Private servers are generally acknowledged as a serious problem in today's online game market.

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