EA buys 15 percent of The9

Megapublisher announces "strategic partnership" with, and investment in, China-based online game operator.


World of Warcraft

As China gears up for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and interest in Web-based sports games skyrockets in the country, Electronic Arts has announced that it will form a partnership with online game operator The9. The deal, estimated at approximately $167 million, will see EA take a 15 percent share in the company. It will also give The9 exclusive publishing rights for FIFA Online, which will be released in mainland China in due course.

The9 is a Shanghai-based online game operator that develops and runs a number of massively multiplayer online games for the Chinese market, including Blizzard's World of Warcraft and its own title Joyful Journey West. It is currently working on the development of a 3D fantasy MMOG, titled Fantasy Melody Online, and has acquired licences for a number of additional MMOGs and casual games for China.

Today's agreement isn't EA's first foray into Asia. Last year, the company partnered with Seoul-based Neowitz to bring FIFA Online to South Korea, a move that has netted the publisher 4.4 million registered subscribers.

Commenting on the China deal, The9 chairman and CEO Jun Zhu said, "We are seeing strong interest in online sports games in China with the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in 2010, and FIFA Online is set to be a top favourite in the Chinese market."

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