Record users for China game operator


China's online game operator The9 Ltd. announced record-breaking user numbers for the last quarter of 2007 as well as strong revenue growth in a conference call with investors and analysts Friday morning in Shanghai.

"We had $58.1 million in revenues, representing 34% t quarter-over-quarter growth," said company chairman and CEO Jun Zhu. That is a 50% increase over the same period the previous year, he added. There was also a peak of over 990,000 concurrent users, he said. "The average was 470,000 concurrent users -- also a record high."

In January, the company began technical testing of FIFA Online 2. "We have richer content, and better playability," he said.

In addition, the company has several games development projects underway, Zhu said. To support them, the company doubled its research and development budget over the last two quarters.

Meanwhile, the company's top earner, Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft, continued to show strong growth, he said.

He dismissed concerns that the company might have problems with its World of Warcraft licenses and saidthat the company had moved away from being a one-game company, to a multi-game platform.

"I am very confident that we will continue to work with Blizzard," Zhu said, but he added that the company will continue to license other games, including bestsellers from Korea, and to develop its own content.

"World of Warcraft continued to experience popularity and gained momentum following the launch of the Burning Crusade expansion pack in September,"said senior vp and chief financial officer Hannah Lee.

Two new games -- Soul of The Ultimate Nation and Granado Espada -- were "in line with expectations," she said. "We are working closely with the developers to introduce frequent content upgrades to further improve the games' performance."

The company's net income rose 125% from $5.2 million in the third quarter to $11.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, the company said. This was a decrease of 18% from the same period last year.

Total revenues for 2007 were $135 million, up 30% from the previous year's $175 million. However, total net income was down 23% from 2006, to $33 million for all of 2007.

As of Dec. 31,, The9 had 33.4 million total registered users, the company announced.