Online, Wireless Gaming Gaining

The gaming industry isn’t playing around, evolving beyond the console to the Internet and wireless handsets. Analysis from Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) reveals that online PC game subscriptions are expected to reach $600.7 million in 2003, and grow to more than $1.513 billion by 2006, where it will generate $773.8 million in online PC games advertising.

Overall, the popularity of online board or card games crossed all demographic segments, Jupiter found, averaging 29 percent among all participants for frequent Internet activities. Greater disparity occurred among income for online gamers: 38 percent of those with annual incomes below $35,000 frequently engaged in online board or card games, as opposed to 26 percent of those with annual incomes above $100,000. The gap was smaller for online arcade gamers — 30 percent compared to 23 percent.

Jupiter found that just as many American women were apt to frequently play online board or card games (35 percent) as they were to scour online job classifieds, and gaming was more important to these women than real estate ads (23 percent), homework (30 percent), and online coupons (32 percent).

Fewer women visited online arcade games monthly or more frequently at 28 percent, but they still outplayed their male counterparts. Less than one-quarter of the men surveyed (24 percent) said that they played online arcade games monthly or more frequently, and 26 percent played online board or card games.

Emerging wireless technologies, such as 3G, sophisticated handsets, color screens, and dynamic sound, allow for portable gaming enjoyment. IDC estimates that the number of total U.S. unique wireless gamers will climb from the nearly 7 million in 2002 to 71.2 million in 2007.

“Wireless games are a perfect example of the type of content that carriers are looking to offer,” says IDC’s Dana Thorat, senior research analyst, Wireless and Mobile Communication. “Gaming is ready to transition beyond the confines of the home to a truly mobile platform, and the emergence of next-generation networks and improved handsets make wireless gaming a reality.”

Strong wireless gaming growth is predicted in Asia, as Strategy Analytics estimates that downloadable games will be the fastest growing consumer application during 2003, generating $2 billion by the end of the year.

Similarly, Datamonitor found that the Asia-Pacific region hosts 70 million mobile gamers, with wireless gaming revenues totaling $1.1 billion. The subscription model, followed by pay-per-play, is currently the most popular revenue model. Together, though, they account for $920 million worth of wireless gaming revenues in Asia Pacific.

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