This week's "The China Angle," Gamasutra's roundup on what's going on in the wild, wild world of the Mainland Chinese market, leaves behind the urban areas we typically associate with internet cafes and too much time spent with WoW and heads to Yunnan Province, more specifically Shangri-La County (formerly known as Zhongdian County). Despite not having a Starbucks or a McDonald's, the area is relatively wealthy, making it easy to swallow the hourly fees to pay WoW - in China, it's less a matter of geography and more a matter of finances:
The popularity of WoW in remote Shangri-la shows that WoW's lower penetration in lower tier markets (relative to Fantasy Westward Journey and Zhengtu) is a matter of income level rather than geography. Despite Shangri-la's remote location, the county is relatively wealthy. In addition to the wealth created by growing tourism, many residents also receive government subsidies based on both ethnic minority status and the county's high elevation. The additional wealth allows Shangri-la's tour guides and yak herders to pay a premium 0.45 Yuan per hour for WoW in China, whereas most other MMORPGs in the country have shifted to virtual item based free-to-play model.
You know you have serious market penetration when you can count yak herders among your devotees.
The China Angle: 'Online Games in Shangri-la' [Gamasutra]