Sat, Jul 24, 2004 - Page 10 News List

New alliance links Gamania Digital, Sony

ONLINE GAMES The new venture should help Sony Online attract a larger number of subscribers in Asia and give Gamania a crack at the China market

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Gamania Digital Entertainment Co (游戲橘子) and Sony Online Enter-tainment Inc (SOE) yesterday announced a strategic alliance,"EQeast," through which the two gaming companies hope to jointly tap the lucrative Asian online gaming market.

"We look forward to increasing our presence and bringing our products to the rest of Asia through the joint venture with Gamania," John Smedley, president of SOE, said at a press conference yesterday.

As Asia, especially China, is deemed a critical online gaming market, SOE is seeking to attract a large number of subscribers by working with Gamania, which has considerable market share in this country and is keen to expand business to across the Taiwan Strait, John said.

The first task of the joint venture, of which SOE owns 60 percent and Gamania 40 percent, is to launch SOE's signature game EverQuest II, which is slated to hit the market in the second quarter of next year, said Albert Liu (劉柏園), chief executive officer and chairman of Gamania.

EverQuest, a massive multi-player online game that Gamania has local distribution rights, went online in 1999 and has since accumulated 2.5 million subscribers with 400,000 players online all the time.

The game, however, is not that popular with Asian gamers due to the complicated interface and Westernized characters, Smedley said.

To cater to local gamers, SOE has improved the interface to be more user friendly, and the two companies plan to culturalize EQeast instead of just translating the gaming text to each market's languages, Liu said.

For example, the Western characters in the game will be transformed to Asian characters and content that are more familiar with local gamers, Liu said.

Although making aggressive inroads to the Asian market, Smedley said the company will still develop the US and European markets, where online games are just taking off with a 40 percent year-over-year growth rate.

The joint venture should be beneficial to both companies, as SOE will transfer its core technology to Gamania and help it to enter the US and European markets, while Gamania can provide its market intelligence to SOE in developing Asian oriented products, Liu said.

The joint venture will further seek other partners in China.

Investors, however, appeared unmoved by news of the alliance, as shares of Gamania yesterday fell NT$0.10 to close at NT$16.8 on the Gretai Securities Market, the nation's over-the-counter market.

Faced with a stronger rival, Gavin Lin (林盛隆), spokesman of Soft-World International Corp (智冠科技), the nation's largest online game provider, said his company is also looking for proper strategic partners in Japan, South Korea and the US, but it is not afraid of competition.

Lin said Soft-World has laid a solid foundation in China with its popular game titles and strong distribution channels.

Lin praised EverQuest as a classical and quality online game with state-of-art visuals and sophisticated story line, but said the product is too complicated for a massive number of casual players.

Heidi Chang (張海平), a Gamania public relations official, said there were only 5,000 local subscribers to the game.

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