Why China’s game business will hit $20B by 2016 (exclusive interview)

China has one of the most dynamic and unique game markets in the world. Rising from virtual non-existence a decade ago, and surviving a stage when every disk was pirated, the nation has become a force to be reckoned with in online games. Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing director of Niko Partners, has watched the Chinese online game market for more than a decade. She has seen the rise of publicly traded companies such as Tencent, the launch of popular Western massively multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft, and the emergence of social networking games. Mobile gaming has exploded with hundreds of Android app stores. And now there’s even a glimmer of hope that the Chinese government will allow the launch of game consoles, particularly if they are education focused. We talked with Cosmas Hanson about this ever-changing market. Here’s an edited transcript of the conversation.

Activision Blizzard’s quarterly earnings report predicted to shine come Wednesday

Activision Blizzard will report its first-fiscal-quarter earnings on Wednesday, May 9, after the market close. This will come two days after its arch-rival Electronic Arts reports its earnings, and the two together will paint a better picture of the grudge match between EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic and Activision Blizzard’s flagship online game World of Warcraft.

Can we panic now? — Core gaming has a problem

THQ layoffs, Sega cancellations, and Sony studio closures caused last week to be one of the worst in memory for the gaming industry. Compare that to mobile darling OMGPOP which was sold for $210 million based on the strength of one game. It seems like one side of the market is on its way down, while the other side has nothing but growth ahead of it, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Guild Wars 2 challenges MMO establishment with hybrid business model (preview)

The massively multiplayer online (MMO) games business is about to get even more competitive. Market leader World of Warcraft (WoW) dodged a bullet when the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) put only a minor dent into its customer base, which still sits at an imposing 10.2M. But the next challenger is already on its way in the shape of NCsoft’s Guild Wars 2, due for release later this year.

Free-to-play games catching MMO subscribers’ attention (and wallets)

The successful launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic notwithstanding, the business model of mandatory subscriptions for massively multiplayer online (MMO) games seems to be on its way out. A new user survey by online core gamer network Curse indicates that free-to-play games and microtransaction purchases are gaining ground even among subscribers of MMO market leader World of Warcraft.

Gunning for another Kickstarter success Minecraft-style

Curious how a first-person shooter with crafting elements and “total environmental destruction” would play? For a modest $15 you can pre-purchase indie game Guncraft and help the developers meet their Kickstarter funding goal of $16,000 to finish the project. It combines typical multiplayer shooter gunplay with the creative crafting and environmental transformations made popular by Minecraft.

New details and Outland screens from “World of Warcraft within Minecraft” project (exclusive interview)

A 27-year-old U.S. graduate student known as “Ramses” is creating a stir in the community of Minecraft, the sandbox-building game by Swedish development studio Mojang. Within Minecraft’s blocky world, he has spent about 100 hours so far on a re-creation of Azeroth, the enormous setting of Blizzard’s massively multiplayer game, World of Warcraft (WoW).

Activision Blizzard earnings: World of Warcraft resists the assault from EA’s Star Wars

Activision Blizzard has beaten earnings expectations for its third fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 31, and its major cash cow is still holding up. World of Warcraft didn’t suffer after Electronic Arts launched its massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic. World of Warcraft ended the year with 10.2 million paying subscribers, down only slightly from 10.3 million in the previous quarter.

Blizzard makes $26M on World of Warcraft security authenticators [update]

Update: As pointed out below in the reader comments, these estimates are likely off by a sizable amount as they do not take into account the free Battle.net Mobile Authenticator. Users of the free app are entitled to the Core Hound Pup in-game pet (which was used to come up with the $26 million figure) just as users of the paid authenticator are, so it’s virtually impossible to calculate how much revenue has actually been made via this product. Sincere apologies for the misinformation.

The DeanBeat: Game industry predictions for 2012

We all know how worthless predictions can be, but they’re kind of irresistible. They’re easy to make, particularly if nobody pays attention to whether they came true or not. I could come up with a lot of crazy forecasts, like Zynga buys Ubisoft. But I’ll try to stay real this year. If you have some ideas of your own, please leave them in the comments and take our poll at the end.

Review: Should you buy Star Wars: The Old Republic?

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft could soon be feeling a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of subscribers suddenly cried out and started heading for a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars: The Old Republic is an impressive and easy to play new competitor from Electronic Arts that makes great use of the Star Wars license. It is the most promising new massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) since World of Warcraft claimed the genre’s throne seven years ago.

World of Warcraft patched as Blizzard Entertainment tries to reverse declining subscriptions

Blizzard Entertainment  released a huge patch on Tuesday for its hit game World of Warcraft, as part of an effort to turn around a significant drop in subscribers. As we reported earlier this month, player numbers dropped from 11.1 million to 10.3 million in the third quarter of 2011, and parent company Activision Blizzard must surely now be looking over its shoulder at the upcoming big budget rival Star Wars: The Old Republic.