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Tom.com enters online gaming market
( 2003-11-07 10:47) (China Daily HK Edition)

Hong Kong-based multimedia firm Tom.com said yesterday that it would formally enter the fiercely-competitive online gaming market in the mainland by the end of this year.

"We have been thinking about entering the area for a long time and spent a lot of money to introduce this game from South Korea; now, Chinese players will experience it soon," said Wang Leilei, deputy chief operating officer of Tom.com Group Limited and chief executive officer of its Internet operations.

The game Leiting Zhandui (Thunderbolt Squad), called Karma Online in South Korea, is different from most imported role-play games - it is a first person shooting (FPS) game and has 90,000 simultaneous players in South Korea.

With the launch of the gaming service, Tom.com's Internet business lines will be expand into four - wireless services including short messaging service (SMS) and multimedia messaging service (MMS), online advertising, corporate services and online games.

Tom.com's major competitors on the mainland, NASDAQ-listed Netease.com Inc, Sina Corp and Sohu.com Inc all operate their own game services.

"I hope our online game operation will make a considerable contribution to our Internet business," said Wang Leilei.

According to Shanghai iResearch Co Ltd, an Internet industry consulting firm, the online gaming market in China this year will be worth double last year's at 2.55 billion yuan (US$308 million); with paid-user population soaring to 9.2 million from last year's 4.8 million.

"It is a natural choice for Tom: the market potential is huge, Tom has a strong presence among Internet users in the Chinese mainland, and the FPS game is very popular among young players," said Michael Yin, a senior Internet analyst with iResearch.

Wang said his company had also started a three-month roadshow with the country's biggest mobile telecom operator China Mobile to promote the interactive voice response (IVR) service, which enables mobile phone users to dial a service number to participate in online chats, listen to music and make friends.

He estimated the market would reach 2.5 billion yuan (US$302 million) a year.

"After SMS and MMS, it has become another focus of China Mobile in developing data services; and its prospects will be even brighter than the first two," Wang said.

Wang also revealed that Tom.com Group would soon spin off its Internet business and make an initial public offering (IPO) in both the Growth Enterprise Market in Hong Kong and the NASDAQ in New York.

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