EA Takes Fantasy Warfare to Taiwan

Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) appears to have developed a yen for the yuan. Or, more to the point, the Taiwanese dollar.

Less than three months ago, the video game giant licensed its NBA Street Online basketball game to Taiwanese gaming maven GigaMedia (Nasdaq: GIGM  ) . That move expanded the reach of the game franchise to the highly active and lucrative entertainment markets in Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong. At the time, GigaMedia CEO Arthur Wang controlled an online gaming empire of 68 million users.

Today, that partnership went one step further ,as the two companies agreed to publish the highly anticipated Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG for short) to the very same Far East user base.

Superficially similar to international megahit World of Warcraft, the Warhammer world is based on decades of backstory material from British tabletop specialist Games Workshop, and it promises to make gaming-addicted zombies out of millions of otherwise normal, healthy kids. Make no mistake: Warhammer is the original pseudo-fantasy world from which Warcraft and others stole their premises.

With the proven Electronic Arts powerhouse behind this game, I expect great things from it. It comes with a built-in fan base. This is the fanatical sense of "fan," which also describes many Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) users, Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX  ) fashionistas, and businesspeople kept on a short CrackBerry leash by their masters at Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) . When you put that desirable property in the hands of increasingly affluent Asian gamers, the profit potential is simply mind-blowing.

In a rare case of dueling press releases without the usual malice, GigaMedia and Electronic Arts each announced the deal in its own words. The result is a quick caricature of two business cultures. While EA touted the promising markets, the proven MMORPG genre, and the expected warm welcome into Asian markets, GigaMedia was selling the story, the game world, and the exciting personal quests instead. Nuts and bolts meets personal appeal. Business versus pleasure. And that's why EA develops the darn thing, and Giga sells it to the local community.

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