THQ (THQI) says it has formed a joint venture with Shanghai-based ICE Entertainment to launch Dragonica, a free-to-play massively multiplayer online casual game scheduled for release in North America in 2009.

Neither company has stated to what extent the joint venture has been capitalized, under what type of business the company has been formed, or the stakes either company has in this Chinese joint venture. Because if this, it is unclear if this new arrangement is merely a publicity stunt or a full-fledged business partnership. Organizing joint ventures for online games is rather difficult in China, because game companies should be dominated by a local partner.

"We are extremely excited to be working with ICE Entertainment to bring this free-to-play, micro-transaction-based online game to the robust yet largely untapped market for online casual gaming in North America," said Doug Clemmer, president of THQ's casual gaming subsidiary.

Dragonica is a massively multiplayer online casual game developed by Barunson Interactive, based in South Korea. ICE currently has the rights to operate the game in China and plans to commence its closed beta for that market in late 2008, however the company does not say what rights it has yet to launch the game in North America.

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