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Shanda reports 1 million paying Aion users in China

Licensed pay-to-play MMO reaches milestone in just four days on market

Shanda Interactive Entertainment has reported that it has attracted 1 million paying users in online MMORPG Aion in its first four days of commercial operation.

According to reports received by GamesIndustry.biz, Aion began charging users an hourly rate for the NSsoft Korea-developed game with the April 16 release of the game's "Yao Sai Pan Long" scenario, with over 1 million players paying for at least one hour of gameplay between that date and April 19.

Shanda made a statement on the popularity of the game's closed beta earlier this month, with CEO Diana Li saying "We are very pleased with our users' overwhelming response to and the popularity of Aion during this short period, which we believe further validates the success of our multi-channel strategy to source content for our games portfolio."

Despite the game's early success, Deutsche Bank downgraded Shanda from Buy to Hold on April 20. According to StreetInsider.com, the reasons cited were player concerns about a lack of in-game content, the cost of play, and the game's demanding minimum hardware requirements.

Shanda secured the rights to distribute Aion after purchasing a 30 per cent stake in NCsoft China in November of 2007. NCsoft had previously partnered with Chinese gaming portal Sina to distribute titles Lineage and Lineage II in the region, though both games failed to reach a substantial market penetration, with reports citing complicated gameplay and technical demands that exceeded those of China's more popular MMOs.

Rumors from Chinese site 163.com, as reported by JLM Pacific, point to the possibility of Shanda separating its game business and creating an independent Nasdaq listing later this year, with an unnamed "industry insider" reporting that the move will depend on the success of Aion in the Chinese market.

The Western launch of the game, entitled Aion: The Tower of Eternity, is due this Autumn from NCsoft and via Steam.


Frank Cifaldi