This has been a pretty volatile time to invest in China's leading online-gaming providers. Regulators are cracking down on game content and foreign ownership. Recent IPOs have not gone over too well.

There is also a wider disparity in terms of performance. Changyou.com (NASDAQ:CYOU) and Perfect World (NASDAQ:PWRD) beat analyst profit estimates in their latest quarters, but NetEase.com (NASDAQ:NTES) came up short and Giant Interactive (NYSE:GA) simply met expectations.

As in most quarters, Shanda Interactive (NASDAQ:SNDA) is the last of its peers to deliver its results. With so much uncertainty -- and mortality -- about, would the industry pioneer call in sick with last night's report?

Nope. Shanda's net revenue soared 48% to $202.5 million. Earnings climbed 29% to $0.90 a share, just ahead of Wall Street's $0.88-a-share target. Profitability rose a healthy 49% on a non-GAAP basis.

It certainly could have been worse. Shanda is the same company that decided to take its Shanda Games (NASDAQ:GAME) subsidiary public as a stand-alone entity a little more than two months ago. The debut priced at $12.50 a share, but Shanda Games is trading noticeably lower today. It was just a matter of unfortunate timing, since clearly the fundamentals of online gaming are still intact for the industry's top performers.

The sector's uncertainty has been weighing on the publicly traded players. The stocks currently trade for just 10 to 14 times next year's projected earnings. Regulators have already tripped up NetEase by delaying its release of Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ:ATVI) World of Warcraft during the summer. Expect the meddling to continue, though it would be a mistake to underestimate the power of leisure-seeking youths in China if the screws continue to tighten.

Either way, the lesson here is to stick with the winners in an industry that's no longer rewarding all comers. Shanda, for now, is worthy of a victory lap.

Are you worried about the future of online gaming in China? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Netease.com, Perfect World, and Shanda Interactive are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Activision Blizzard is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a fan of China's high-margin gaming stocks for a long time. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He owns no shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.