I came across an article in the Asia Times, that you might find interesting. It concerns the burgeoning appetite - and market - for 3D virtual worlds in China. Rather than focusing on the Mindark deal, which will see Entropia entering the marketplace, it looks in more detail at the (for me) more intriguing prospect of HiPiHi. This is a "home grown" Chinese virtual world, still in Beta test, that apparently bears uncanny similarities to Second Life (although no decision has yet been taken concerning the implementation of an inworld currency).
In the article Ken Brady, a director of international strategies at Centric, is quoted as saying: "China's the No 2 market now, with Blizzard and Shanda Entertainment just two of the major players. HiPiHi will launch this autumn, Entropia Universe is moving in soon, and Shanda has announced plans to create another Chinese virtual world. There are, of course, more out there, and many more coming. It's a busy time in China's online 3D landscape."
HiPiHi will face fierce competition. For example, Shanda Interactive Entertainment,China's leading online gaming company, has been developing a virtual-world game similar to Second Life. Meanwhile, UOneNet Technology have been developing their virtual world, called "uWorld." Yet another new virtual world in development for China is Frenzoo, which is aimed squarely at the youth market.
These will need to slug it out with highly successful Far East virtual worlds, like South Korea's Cyworld, which launched in China in 2005. It boasts 19 million residents in South Korea alone - some 40% of the population - and now has more that 3 million residents in China.
All in all, an interesting 12 months in prospect in China! And where will this leave Linden Lab, who have signally failed to break into this market so far?