Online Games Market to Hit $4.4 Billion by 2010

The online game market is expected to reach $4.4 billion by 2010 according to data released by Parks Associates. The research firm also identified six distinct groups of gamers based on time spent and motivation.

By 2010, the online game market is expected to reach $4.4 billion, up from $1.1 billion in revenues last year. That figure is based on interviews and estimates of different segments of the game industry including publishers, distribution services, casual Web-based services, and also derivative revenue like in-game advertising and commodity exchange.

Several game publishers have reported disappointing earnings in recent years. The monetary increase in the game market is at least in part reliant to the release and adoption of next-generation consoles like the Microsoft Xbox 360, which began selling last year, and the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, both of which are yet to hit the market.

“Lower revenue numbers are largely due to platform success, that’s why they are influenced by the platform lifecycle,” said Parks Associates Director of Broadband and Gaming Sectors Michael Cai.

In addition to traditional game industry companies like publishers, hardware and console manufacturers, the research included other sources new to the gaming sector including portals like Yahoo, Real Networks and AOL; and NHN Corporation, which operates an online gaming site in Korea and recently opened U.S. operations.

“Those companies are going to help the market grow, along with dominant players like Microsoft, EA, and other [traditional industry companies],” said Cai.

Supporting these revenues are PC gamers who spend an average of 18.5 hours per week playing games, and 70 percent of PC gamers take part in multiplayer mode online. In comparison, console gamers play an average 13.6 hours per week, portable games are played 8.9 hours on average, and mobile games about 4.6 hours.

In a survey of 2,000 U.S.-based online gamers, respondents were asked questions about time spent, motivation and attitudes toward gaming. From the findings, six distinct groups emerged.

“Traditionally, the industry talks about casual and hard-core gamers,” said Cai. “They don’t speak the same language when they talk about casual gamers.” Cai also said the definitions of casual and hard-core gamers differs. Casual gamers are often classified as those who play Web-based games. Others put gamers who play less than 10 hours per week, regardless of the game, into the casual group. The six segments identified are:

  • Power Gamers who represent 11 percent of the gamer market, and 30 cents on the dollar on retain and online games.
  • Social Gamers play games as a way to interact with friends.
  • Leisure Gamers spend 58 hours per month playing mainly casual titles.
  • Dormant Gamers have fewer opportunities to game because of scheduling issues with family, work or school.
  • Incidental Gamers lack motivation and play out of boredom but spend 20 hours or more a month playing online games.
  • Occasional Gamers play puzzle, word and board games almost exclusively.

“If you lump all non-core gamers into the casual group, you run the risk of losing focus,” said Cai. “A game that appeals to one segment within the non-core or non-power gamer segment doesn’t necessarily appeal to others.”

In-game advertising has opportunities within each segment. “Overall, the majority of gamers aren’t necessarily against advertising, but the approach may need to be different,” said Cai. “Power gamers are more likely readily embrace product integration. But if you look at other segments, they have different interests.”

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