Shanda Interactive Entertainment, the Nasdaq-listed mainland online games operator, said third-quarter operating profit fell a less than expected 25.7 per cent from the same period last year, although it rose 23.4 per cent from the second quarter - thanks to strong sales of virtual gaming accessories. Operating profit was 112.7 million yuan in the three months to September. Net revenue was 436.8 million yuan, down 12.6 per cent from last year but up 7.7 per cent from the second quarter. Net income was 143.5 million yuan, 45 per cent lower than year-ago levels but up slightly from the second quarter. Investors are closely watching Shanda's quarter-on-quarter performance since the company was forced to adopt a new business strategy in which it gave away some of its popular online games such as Legend of Mir 2 and Magical Land rather than charging users on a monthly basis or for time used. Now it wants to generate a greater proportion of its revenues from selling virtual weapons or coupons that will be used by game players. The results beat analyst expectations. Evolution Securities estimates that revenue from its core massively multiplayer online role-playing games will rise 9 per cent in the current quarter from the third as new games come on line. 'The growth demonstrates again that the new revenue model is sustainable and scalable,' said chairman Chen Tianqiao in a statement. Shanda's online games business, which had been hurt by mounting competition, performed better in the third quarter than in the period to June, with revenue rising 9.4 per cent, although it was still down 6.6 per cent from the same period last year to 409 million yuan. Peak concurrent users for all games in commercial operation in the third quarter fell 8 per cent to 2.06 million, mainly due to company efforts to defeat robot-cheating programmes. Revenue from massively multiplayer online role-playing games climbed 9.1 per cent from the previous quarter to 332 million yuan, accounting for 76 per cent of its online game sales. Maplestory and Legend of Mir 2 are on the top 10 list of downloadable games in the week to October 23, with both attracting more than 260,000 users. Average monthly spending per user grew 6.10 yuan to 51.60 yuan in the third quarter, compared with the previous quarter. Paid users for multiplayer online role-playing games slipped to 2.14 million from 2.23 million in the previous quarter.