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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 07:11 GMT
China's online games sales double
Man buying DVDs, Shenzhen
Multi-user games are popular
The number of people playing online games in China rose by 63.8% in 2003 and sales nearly doubled, according to an industry report.

Sales of online games were worth 1.3bn yuan ($157m; 86m) in 2003, the China Games Publishers Association (CGPA) survey found.

It said 14 million people regularly played online games in China, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

This represented an increase of 45.5% on 2002, the report said.

IT sector analysts in China say reliable data on the country's online games market is hard to come by, but it is undoubtedly growing rapidly.

China's top home-grown internet portals such as Sina.com and NetEase - both of whom have US stock listings - are slugging it out for domination, along with games developers like Shanghai firm Shanda.

Fear of piracy has shaped the country's online games market, whose most popular products are multi-player PC based games.

Console-based games giants Nintendo and Sony have steered clear of China, though privately imported boxes are available and Nintendo recently unveiled a games console designed especially to protect against the country's rampant software piracy.

CGPA carried out a nationwide survey in association with overseas IT analysis firm IDC which received 180,000 responses, Xinhua reported.

A separate report on internet use showed the number of surfers in China rose 34.5% in 2003 to 79.5 million people. It was issued by the official data-collector China Internet Network Information Center (Cnnic).

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