Nineyou Information Technology, whose online products include a free-to-play dancing game, is making the most of the one constant in the lives of teenagers - whether in the real world or in virtual reality, that being trendy is paramount. Audition, the Shanghai-based online game company's top offering, lets players dress up and strut their stuff online. More than 800,000 players are online at peak times, and more than half are girls aged 14-26, the highest proportion of female players among all Chinese online games, said Nineyou corporate management director Jamsper Wu. The game has 230 million registered users, exceeding China's official internet population of 130 million. High scores are less important than cool outfits for players of the country's most popular game. Most items sold by Audition - such as hair styles, blouses, skirts and boots - have no function apart from aesthetic appeal. And, as in real life, looks come at a price. Audition garments and accessories cost anywhere up to several hundred yuan each, and then only for a week or a month of use. 'The items expire within a week or a month,' Mr Wu said. 'Just like real fashion, you want to change to a different style from time to time.' And if you are a little short of cash, 'why not ask your boyfriend to send some to you?' he suggested. Boy-meets-girl lies at the heart of the game. Girls dress up to stand out and boys offer gifts to impress them. It is a familiar concept even for generations who have never touched an online game. But one difference from the real world is that online, things happen much faster. 'Do you want to marry me?' said one boy character to a girl persona just after they had exchanged a 'hi'. When the answer is 'yes', there are 'wedding passes' on sale to help the couple seal the virtual knot. Audition follows on from Nineyou's first big hit O2jam, which also sold virtual fashion items. O2jam, a music game that had 200,000 peak concurrent gamers when launched in April 2005, created a buzz among youngsters without turning into a real revenue driver. 'The rhythm was too fast,' Mr Wu said. 'Nobody had time to check out what the other players were wearing in the game.' Audition, launched in May 2005, offers a slower pace, giving players more time to meet and socialise online. The result is escalating revenue from item sales, making Audition the company's chief revenue source. 'Audition is still growing fast. The first quarter's revenue was double that of the same period last year,' Mr Wu said. The company has also started to develop online advertising. Upmarket overseas names such as Gucci and Chanel have not yet been signed up, but some local fashion chains have co-branded promotions on Audition, mostly in form of in-game items, he said. For example, when a person buys a dress in a real-world shop, they will receive game points that allow the buyer to own a virtual outfit by that particular brand in the game. Pepsi and other consumer product companies also have their fashion lines in Audition. Audition is licensed from South Korean game company T3 Entertainment and O2jam from the same country's O2media. Nineyou, which devotes about 400 of its 900 staff members to research and development, failed to score a hit with its in-house dancing game, Super Dancer, indicating how unpredictable audience tastes can be and highlighting the danger that those who live by fashion can find themselves fatally out of step. 'The risk for Nineyou is that it depends on only one game, Audition. What happens when the game is no long popular?' said Fu Xinghua, an analyst at market research firm Analysys. Nineyou's revenue accounted for 6.86 per cent of the total mainland online game market in the fourth quarter last year, Analysys estimated, and more than half the revenue of The9, the country's third-largest online game operator, which has a market share of about 13.3 per cent. The9's fourth-quarter revenue totalled 282.7 million yuan, according to its financial statement.