|Sohu.com, one of China’s leading Internet portals has announced plans to acquire online gaming rival 17173.com to tap into China’s lucrative and fast growing online gaming market.|
Sohu, which competes hard with chinese portals like Netease and Sina.com (both are listed on the NASDAQ) said 17173.com would bring in online gaming expertise besides a new set of customers and advertisers. Companies in China are diversifying into new market segments online, after growing competition.
Netease.com offers popular subscription-based online role-playing games in which players interact in fantasy settings. Sohu.com has recently tried to catch up by releasing its own online multi-player role-playing game, Knight Online.
The acquisition of 17173.com, which was launched three years ago by games developer NetDragon Websoft and claims 4.3 million registered users, is considered to be strategic for Sohu.com.
Analysts estimate that online gaming and internet based casino revenues in China currently stand at $200m with over 15 million players with the figure expected to reach $900m by 2005. Industry estimates online revenues from gaming to touch are $422 million by the end of 2004.