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November 12, 2006 11:02 pm

Shanda set to follow Xbox

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Shanda Interactive Entertainment, the Nasdaq-listed Chinese online games operator, is to release a series of games for its troubled EZ platform that are intended to offer players a similar experience to video game consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox.

Following the release of Shanda’s third-quarter results on Friday, Chen Tianqiao, chairman and chief executive, said the virtual absence of Xbox and PlayStation from the Chinese market had created a huge opportunity for an online-based rival.

“The features of personal computers and the Xbox and PlayStation are pretty similar,” Mr Chen said. “China already has 50m PC home users and we can develop a software platform that is like the Xbox but which runs on PCs.”

Shanda says it has already sold 250,000 “EZ Pods”, a package of software, services and console-style remote control that it touts as converting a standard PC into an easy-to-use “interactive entertainment platform”.

A combination of rampant piracy and regulatory hurdles mean that Sony and Microsoft’s consoles have been largely excluded from China, although keen would-be players can buy consoles and games on the grey market.

Concerns that the ambitious home entertainment strategy is faltering in the market – with only 100,000 registered EZ Pod users so far – have helped drive down Shanda’s share price by more than 50 per cent since February 2005.

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