- Over at Bill Bishop's 'billsdue' blog, the Beijing-based head of Chinese online world creator Red Mushroom has been pointing out a fascinating Chinese MMO-related news story, involving a tabloid newspaper, NYSE-traded online game firm Giant Online, and an apparently spiked story.

As Bishop explains: "Giant Online's (NYSE:GA) ZT Online MMORPG has almost 1,000,000 peak concurrent users, making it one of the largest MMORPGs in the world. It also quite a money spinner, generating USD $54M in revenue and USD $39M in net income in Q3 2007."

However, Bishop continues: "Southern Weekend (南方周末), a popular newspaper in China known for its muckraking journalism, recently published a long article describing ZT Online. Soon after publication the article was scrubbed from the website and removed from the printed newspaper. Danwei does a great job detailing the removal. Danwei also translated the entire article into English... If you are at all interested in understanding what hooks Chinese gamers you should definitely read it."

The full article is absolutely fascinating - in fact, I'd go as far to say that it's one of the best written, most humanistic pieces on games I've read so far this year. It helps illuminate the complex social reasons that all MMOs - Western or Chinese - can be addictive, of course. But also, as Butler points out in his shrewd commentary on the piece "...goes into detail about the dirty big secret of most successful Chinese MMORPGs -- they are rife with [officially illegal] gambling."