In the latest saga over online gaming addiction in China, the parents of a 13-year-old Tianjin boy are suing the makers of World of Warcraft, blaming the game for the death of their son, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua. The parents filed a suit against Blizzard Entertainment on Wednesday, saying their son jumped to his death while reenacting a scene from the game, the report said. The parents are backed by the anti-Internet addiction advocate Zhang Chunliang.
Mr. Chunliang has spoken to 63 parents whose children have allegedly suffered from online gaming addiction and plans to file a class-action suit, according to the report. Blizzard executives weren’t available to comment to RedHerring.com about the lawsuit.
The high-profile backlash to China’s booming online game market reflects the growing size of the industry. World of Warcraft alone has 1.5 million paying players. China’s online game market brought in $580 million this year, and is the fastest-growing market in the world, according to research firm DFC Intelligence. That market is set to nearly triple in size to an estimated $1.7 billion by 2010.
Blizzard Entertainment developed the game and works with The9 in China as the local distributor. The9 already posted second-quarter revenue of $6.7 million, up from first-quarter revenue of $1.5 million. Some analysts estimate the game is raking in more than $30 million per month in basic subscription fees.
Vivendi Universal Games, the parent company of Blizzard, recently said that through the first half of 2005, World of Warcraft brought the company’s revenue up 61 percent from the year before to â‚¬238 million ($290 million) (see World of Warcraft Storms Asia).
But the company, which now counts 4.5 million World of Warcraft players worldwide, must contend with the backlash of parents concerned with addictive behavior.