Online Gaming Doubles in Europe

Increasing broadband penetration could be the “X factor” for online gaming forums and the soon-to-be-released connected consoles of Xbox Live and PS2 Online, as data from Nielsen//NetRatings shows a remarkable growth spurt in the sector. The measurement firm found that the number of Europeans who visited online gaming sites doubled from January 2002 to January 2003, growing to 5.9 million from 2.8 million.

Growth of the European Audience to Online Gaming Sites Jan. 2002 – Jan. 2003 (Unique Audience, 000’s)

Online Gaming Unique Audience

“What we’ve seen is a big rise in broadband take-up, and online gaming is one of the sectors these high-speed connections are best suited for. It’s notable that France and the Netherlands – two of the top three markets in terms of broadband penetration – are also so prominent in online gaming terms. The growth of online gaming is the first sign that the long-awaited European broadband boom may actually be here,” said Tom Ewing, Internet analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings

Ewing also cited improvements in gaming technology and emerging developments as contributors to the popularity of online gaming. “The sector as a whole has been strengthened by the sales of current gaming consoles, which include broadband and online gaming in their development plans. Events like the forthcoming launch of X-Box Live in Europe, for instance, act to establish the concept of online gaming. There’s a knock-on effect beyond specific brands.”

Analysts from Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) predict that the expected broadband penetration of 12 percent by the end of 2003 will be critical to the success of Xbox Live and PS2 Online. Currently, playing games is the second most popular entertainment-based online activity, and the release of the new connected consoles could capture a larger market.

Most Popular Entertainment-based Online Activities
Percentage of Online Users
Country/Continent Used file
sharing network
Played online
Listened to
streaming audio
Spain 22% 10% 5%
France 21% 12% 10%
Sweden 19% 17% 12%
Germany 18% 9% 5%
UK 16% 15% 10%
Italy 12% 2% 2%
Europe 18% 11% 7%
Base 4,883
Source: Jupiter Research

Nielsen//NetRatings also found a high rate of stickiness on online gaming sites, particularly in the Netherlands, where the average visitor spends over 2 hours a month playing.

Overall, an average of 2.5 times more men than women spend time at online gaming sites, with the majority in the 12 to 24-year-old range.

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