This excerpt taken from the SOHU 10-Q filed May 11, 2009.
Online Game Business Conducted via Changyou
Online game revenues from our current MMORPG operations in China are earned by providing online services to game players pursuant to the item-based revenue model. For periods prior to our upgrading and re-launching of BO in December 2006, we operated BO under the time-based revenue model, where game players are charged based on the time they spend playing the game. Under the item-based revenue model, game players play games free of charge and are charged for purchases of virtual items.
Online game revenues are collected through sale of our prepaid game cards. We sell virtual and physical prepaid game cards to regional distributors, who in turn sub-distribute to retail outlets, including Internet cafés, various websites, news stands, software stores, book stores and retail stores. We typically collect payment from our distributors upon delivery of our prepaid game cards.
Under both the item-based and the time-based revenue models, proceeds received from sales of prepaid cards are initially recorded as receipts in advance. For the item-based revenue model, revenue is recognized over the estimated lives of the virtual items purchased or as the virtual items are consumed. For the time-based revenue model, revenue is recognized based upon the actual usage of time units by the game players. The revenues are recorded net of business tax, sales discounts and rebates to our distributors.
Under our item-based revenue model, game players can access our games free of charge, but may purchase consumable virtual items, including those with a pre-determined expiration time, such as three months, or perpetual items, such as certain costumes that remain bound to a game player for the life of the game. Revenues in relation to consumable virtual items are recognized as they are consumed, as our services in connection with these items have been fully rendered to our game players as of that time. Revenues in relation to perpetual virtual items are recognized over their estimated lives. We will provide continual online game services in connection with these perpetual virtual items until they are no longer used by our game players. We have considered the average period that game players typically play our games and other game player behavior patterns to arrive at our best estimates for the lives of these perpetual virtual items. We have also considered that the estimated lives of perpetual virtual items may be affected by various factors, including the acceptance and popularity of expansion packs, promotional events launched and market conditions. However, given the relatively short operating history of our games, and of our most popular game TLBB in particular, our estimate of the period that game players typically play our games may not accurately reflect the estimated lives of the perpetual virtual items. We have adopted a policy of assessing the estimated lives of perpetual virtual items on a quarterly basis. All paying users data collected since the launch of the games are used to perform the relevant assessments. Historical behavior patterns of these paying users during the period between their first log-on date and last log-on date are used to estimate the lives of perpetual virtual items. While we believe our estimates to be reasonable based on available game player information, we may revise such estimates in the future as our games operation periods become longer and we continue to gain more operating history and data. Any adjustments arising from changes in the estimates of the lives of the virtual items would be applied prospectively on the basis that such changes are caused by new information indicating a change in the game player behavior patterns. Any changes in our estimate of lives of perpetual virtual items may result in our revenues being recognized on a basis different from prior periods and may cause our operating results to fluctuate.
Prepaid game cards will expire two years after the date of card production if they have never been activated. The proceeds from the expired game cards are recognized as revenue upon expiration of cards. In contrast, once the prepaid game cards are activated and credited to a players personal game account, they will not expire as long as the personal game account remains active. We are entitled to suspend and close a players personal game account if it has been inactive for a period of 180 consecutive days. The unused balances in an inactive players personal game account are recognized as revenues when the account is suspended and closed. For the three months ended March 31, 2009 and 2008, we recognized revenues in connection with expired un-activated prepaid game cards and unused balances of activated prepaid game cards in an inactive account amounting to approximately $31,000 and $39,000, respectively.
We also derive online game revenues from licensing our games in other countries and territories. These licensing agreements provided for two revenue streams, namely an initial license fee and a monthly revenue-based royalty fee based on monthly revenues from the games and sales from ancillary products of the games. The initial license fee is based on both a fixed amount and additional amount receivable upon achieving certain sales targets. Since we are obligated to provide post-sales services such as technical support and provision of updates and when-and-if-available upgrades to the licensees during the license period, the initial license fee from licensing arrangement is recognized as revenue ratably over the license period. The fixed amount of the initial license fee is recognized ratably over the remaining license period from the launch of the game, and the additional amount is recognized ratably over the remaining license period from the date such additional amount is certain. The monthly revenue-based royalty fee is recognized when earned, provided that payment collection is reasonably assured.