Gaming Sites Attracting Browsers, Not Players

Online gaming sites have no problem attracting traffic, it’s getting the traffic to play games that seems to be the problem. According to NetValue, less than 200,000 of 2.4 million visitors to games sites from the United Kingdom in December actually took part in games online.

In the United States, 28 percent of all Internet users visited a games site in the December 2000 and more than 4.8 million played games over the Internet, evidence that the online gaming market in the U.S. is more mature, possibly due to more available high-speed Internet connections.

Online games can be downloaded from games sites and played online, and some sites allow users to play against each other. The games are similar in style to those played on Sony Playstation and Sega’s Dreamcast.

The U.K. leads Germany, France, Spain, and Denmark in terms of both visitors to games sites and number of individuals playing games online, according to NetValue. Less than one-fifth of the Internet users in Spain visited a game site in December 2000, but they stayed online for a relatively long amount of time (27 minutes). Danish and U.K. users stayed on games sites for an average of 23 minutes, while French and German users remained online for 14 minutes. U.S. users remained at game sites the longest, an average of 37.9 minutes.

The most visited games sites in the U.S. in December 2000 was uproar.com, with more than 4.5 million unique visitors, according to NetValue. Commissioner.com was the stickiest site, with users spending an average of 129.7 minutes on the site during the month. In the U.K., gamesdomain.com was the most popular site with 234,230 visitors, followed by gameplay.com with 224,660 unique visitors. EA.com, the business division of Electronic Arts was featured in the top five games sites in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Spain.

Across the European markets, NetValue found online gamers to be strongly male biased: 97.6 percent in the U.K.; 90.7 percent in Spain; 84.9 percent in France; and 83.4 percent in Denmark. Although the majority of online gamers in Germany are male, 32 percent of game users are female. The majority of European game players are age 24 and younger, particularly in the U.K. and France, where 65.1 percent and 55.8 percent of users fit this age group. In Germany, 58.9 percent are students.

In the U.S., 46 percent of game users are women, with only 20 percent age 24 or younger. Thirty-five percent are between the ages of 35 and 49, while 16 percent of U.S. gamers are professionals. Only 17 percent of U.S. gamers are students.


Visitors/Players at Gaming Sites
December 2000
Country Visitors
(000)
Players
(000)
US 23,814 4,831
UK 2,468 194
Germany 1,840 143
France 1,687 139
Spain 559 63
Denmark 435 60
Source: NetValue

According to International Data Corp. (IDC), improved Internet capabilities, next-generation videogame consoles, and nontraditional gaming platforms will draw 40 million households into online gaming by 2004, up from 25 million in 2000. But building a diversified revenue base is perhaps the biggest challenge facing online gaming companies, who may turn to licensing technology and cobranding games to open up revenue opportunities.

“To succeed in this competitive space, companies must formulate a profitable revenue model, extend the reach of online games beyond the PC, and ensure that gamers remain loyal,” said Schelley Olhava, senior analyst for IDC’s consumer devices program. “Because advertising revenue, which most business models are currently based upon, could dry up in the future, many sites are looking to create more attractive advertisements opportunities beyond banner ads through sponsorship and targeted ads and are trying to migrate free subscribers to paid subscribers.”

Although the PC will remain the dominant device through which households obtain Internet access, next-generation consoles, PDAs, cell phones, and interactive TV platforms will become viable online gaming platforms, but Olhava said this will require several logistical developments, including game design, partnerships, infrastructure development, and a coherent business plan.

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