Sony Ericsson Asks Game Maker The9 to Manage Its App Store in China

The9, which is known for helping to bring games from the U.S. to China, is announcing a partnership with Sony Ericsson to operate its mobile app store there.

The Chinese company is perhaps originally known for bringing World of Warcraft to China through a prior partnership with Activision. More recently, it invested in U.S.-based OpenFeint, which was acquired by Japan’s Gree last year. It continues to work with OpenFeint on a version of the social gaming platform for China.

But the deal with Sony Ericsson in China will be a first for The9, which will be the exclusive operator of its PlayNow app store. It will provide technical and operational support, including testing, releasing and promotion of all apps.

The partnership is not unheard of; Sony Ericsson has leaned on other providers in the U.S., such as GetJar, to manage its app store here.

The PlayNow store in China will include games, as well as other apps and content, such as ringtones. It will work on Xperia phones that operate Android and Java.

Feature phones continue to be the dominant phone factor in China, but increasingly smartphones are being adopted, said Chris Shen, general manager of The9’s Mobile Business Unit, in an interview.

He said that since games are the company’s strength, it will be looking to partner with other content providers to integrate other products into the PlayNow experience. So far, 50 games have already been added to the store.

Shen said it will receive a cut of the revenues from sales of games, advertising and microtransactions. The9 must also share the revenue with third-party developers.

The company, which trades on the Nasdaq, has struggled to regain revenues that were lost after its World of Warcraft contract was not renewed in 2009.

In the second quarter of 2011, it reported a loss of $1.9 million on revenues of $3.9 million. The company’s stock fell 2 cents today, to trade at $6.80 a share.

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