We all know about the relationship between China and World of Warcraft– it is at once obsessive and turbulent– but Trion CEO Lars Buttler still smells profit in the distant land of the Middle Kingdom. Buttler announced today that his company’s MMO Rift will be establishing a foothold in China via Chinese online gaming operator Shanda.
Rift was released in the North America, Europe, and Australia in March 2011 for the PC, to a fairly decent reception and has already grossed $100 million in revenue. Although there’s no exact date, it should be released in China later this year, with Buttler stating that he hopes it will be contribute a significant amount of revenue.
On Gamasutra Buttler outlines why Trion made the decision to go with Shanda, and why Shanda decided to operate Rift:
They are innovative and have a huge reach. We definitely picked them, but they also, I think, fell in love with Rift… We talked to a number of the big operators. Shanda is probably the best, and the most experienced company, at running these large-scale MMOs.
Shanda is the local expert, and they are localizing the game in terms of language and everything else.
By “everything else” he means that some developmental tweaks are being made to the game to make it more appealing to the Chinese audience. Trion also hopes that Shanda will work hard to publicize the game in China, with Buttler stating that, “We do a lot right, but we think there’s so much to learn from Asia, and a company like Shanda that has been in the market so long, and has innovated in so many ways, is a great partner to work with and learn from.”
Alan Tan, the chairman and CEO of Shanda, said in a statement: “Rift‘s massive online world has already attracted devoted fans around the world and we’re excited to leverage our experience and expertise in the region to create a blockbuster launch for Rift in China.”
Shanda is also the operator behind MapleStory, Company of Heroes, Ragnarok Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Dragon Ball Online, and the Legend of Mir II, among others.
MMOs are a pretty big deal in China, WoW aside. When I visited in 2007, we all had to go to an Internet café to work on a survey. “Internet café” is a little too kind, though, it was more like an internet arena, because it was a large room with rows and rows of computers.
Anyway, every single one of the computers had games like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty already installed. Granted, going to Internet cafes is more common in Asia than it is in the West, and many kids can’t go home to play games on their computers (either because they can’t afford it or their parents won’t allow them), so having those games installed on a public computer just makes sense economically for those cafes. Although, if I remember correctly, you had to be over 18 or so to go into an Internet café. Either way, pretty soon some shady group of gangsters is going to be establishing a Rift gold farm.