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Online game gets Chinese inspiration


At a time when some are looking to the Chinese market to find a way out of the financial crisis, others are tapping into Chinese culture for inspiration.

The company behind a leading online multiplayer role-playing game, World of Warcraft, on Tuesday globally released its fourth expansion pack — Mists of Pandaria — at a time when its number of subscribers is shrinking.

The company’s latest bet is an enigmatic type of character, the Pandaren — a humanoid race resembling pandas.

The Pandaren practice martial arts and isolated themselves from the outside world by building a wall around the misty continent of Pandaria.

The game’s developer, United States-based Blizzard Entertainment, is not the only international company tapping into Asian culture for fresh content.

According to figures from China’s Ministry of Culture, online games have become a new engine driving the cultural industry. The number of players in China grew to 324 million, and the market was worth 42.85 billion yuan ($6.73 billion) by the end of 2011.

Michael Morhaime, Blizzard’s president, told analysts that WoW ended the second quarter with about 9.1 million subscribers worldwide, down from a record high of more than 12 million subscribers two years ago, according to a BBC report.

Morhaime said that the company expects a "substantial number" of subscribers to return after the release of the expansion pack.

Dave Kosak, a game designer for WoW, said on Wednesday in Beijing that the company introduced the Pandaren characters in Blizzard games nine years ago and that the team always wanted to do an expansion pack with the Pandaren.

Kosak said that Chinese culture was their main inspiration while developing the expansion pack.

"We had a lot of ideas, and eventually everybody got excited (about Pandaria) and we thought it could get our players excited," Kosak said.

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