BUSINESS

GigaMedia results; Philweb overseas expansion; gold-farming in Chinese prisons

TAGs: China, GigaMedia, gold farming, PhilWeb

gigamedia-philweb-gold-farmingAsian online games provider GigaMedia posted revenues of $10.4m in Q1 2011, a 17% gain quarter-over-quarter, but still posted a net loss of $975k. Revenues were also down sharply from Q1 2010, with most of the decrease attributable to GigaMedia’s deconsolidation of its gambling software business in April 2010. CEO Yichin Lee, who only assumed the position in March, claims the company is “making good progress in turning around our Asian online games business. We delivered solid top-line growth this quarter from our current game portfolio and began to more effectively control costs. We also expect to add significant value to our balance sheet this year through disposal of investments in certain game-related assets.”

Dennis Valdes, president of listed Philippines gaming outfit Philweb Corp., expects the company’s overseas online betting business will begin contributing revenues by the third or fourth quarter of 2011. Speaking at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday, Valdes touted the company’s plans to launch internet café style Pagcor E-Games (PEGS) locations along the borders of Laos/Thailand, Laos/China and in Vietnam and Cambodia. The initial returns were expected to be modest, but Valdes believes that “in the next three to five years, our overseas business should be as big or even bigger than our domestic business.”

The Guardian has published the sad tale of Liu Dali, a former prisoner in the Chinese labor camp Jixi. Liu claims that in addition to being put to work in China’s notoriously dangerous coalmines, he and 300 other prisoners were forced to work as ‘gold farmers’ – performing repetitive tasks in online games such as World of Warcraft for 12 hours at a stretch to amass game credits. These credits were then sold by prison bosses for real cash, as much as £570/day. Naturally, Liu and his fellow inmates/gamers saw none of this cash, but the punishments for failing to produce virtual gold were all too real. “If I couldn’t complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things. The computers were never turned off.” An estimated 80% of all gold farmers are based in China, perhaps 100k full-time gold farmers in total. The China Internet Centre claims £1.2b worth of virtual currencies were traded in China in 2008 alone. Let the games begin…

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