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Take-Two Interactive has launched its big online-games experiment in China today with the public beta test of its free-to-play NBA 2K Online game on the Tencent Games portal.

The game is a bridge from the past of console games to the future of digital online titles, which is the major theme of our upcoming GamesBeat 2012 in July. It also will test to see whether content produced by an American game company will be embraced by Chinese game players. And it is one more example of how a game company is seeking to broaden the appeal of a game brand by embracing the free-to-play model, where users can play a game for free and pay real money for virtual goods.

Players who have an activation account can now log onto the website to test the game and play it online. New York-based Take-Two will preserve game data in the open beta test so that players can maintain their records as they progress in the game.

“We’re pleased that our partnership with Tencent continues to make progress and consumers are beginning to experience our world-renowned NBA brand and signature gameplay,” said David Ismailer, chief operating officer of the 2K label within Take-Two. “Online gaming in Asia represents one of our organization’s key, long-term strategic initiatives. We are encouraged by this opportunity to complement our core business through leveraging our proven franchise and development expertise with one of the region’s most successful online services.”


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The game is being developed by Tencent and 2K Sports in Shanghai. The title builds on 2K Sports‘ basketball simulation franchise in a massively multiplayer online format where players can level up and personalize their characters. NBA 2K Online has a variety of game modes, user-created tournaments, multiplayer teams, easy keyboard and mouse controls for PC players, social networking, and leaderboards.

Tencent has hundreds of millions of users for its QQ social network, and it has been working closely with a variety of U.S. game companies. The company invested in Epic Games recently and bought a controlling stake in Riot Games, maker of the popular League of Legends online game.

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