Disney, EA expand Asia gaming biz

Companies boost online videogame presence

Two media giants are expanding their videogame presence in Asia.

Disney has signed a deal with Chinese developer NetDragon to make a multiplayer online game based on Mouse House characters.

Electronic Arts, meanwhile, has acquired Korean developer J2M, one of the most successful makers of free-to-play online games in that country.

Online PC gaming is hot in China and South Korea, where consoles are not as popular. The free-to-play model, under which revenue is generated from items purchased in-game as well as from advertisements, has become particularly common in these countries, and it’s starting to pop up in the U.S.

Disney runs several online multiplayer games and virtual worlds in the U.S., including the kid-targeted “ToonTown,” which features its animated characters. “Disney Fantasy Online,” which is targeted for release in the spring, will be its first designed for the Asian market.

EA has already turned several of its popular franchises, such as “FIFA soccer” and “NBA Street,” into free online games and is developing Asia-specific online versions of others like “Need for Speed” and “Warhammer.”

Acquisition of J2M is expected to accelerate that process, as well as give EA control of several popular franchises owned by the Korean developer. Financial details weren’t disclosed, but EA said it would not have a material impact in the current fiscal year.

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