State of the Space

Nova Barlow | 23 Oct 2007 12:07
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The shape of MMOGs is also changing, as virtual worlds are becoming trendier. The audiences are becoming younger, and the way they're spending money online is different than before. Virtual items are no longer an odd concept to people, and although a large segment of players are still visibly outspoken against them, the real-money trade (RMT) for virtual items market is estimated as being worth $1.82-$2.09 billion in 2007. Although it has been quick to catch on, RMT is still rife with problems, and users are still in search of better implementations. The China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) issued a report in spring 2007 stating 61 percent of gamers have had virtual assets stolen, and 77 percent feel the current online atmosphere is unsafe for virtual assets.

Of the big movers and shakers in the next few years, Germany is predicted to remain the top market for online gaming subscriptions in Europe, and in the short term the U.S. will remain the West's largest market overall for online gaming. France is projected to give Germany a run for its money over the next five years, followed closely by Spain and Italy. The North American market is not expected to grow as quickly due to market saturation and slower broadband growth than other markets. In the Asia/Pacific markets, Japan is projected to pick up the pace to catch up with current leaders China and South Korea.

In regard to virtual property and services, the market is expected to match subscription revenue by 2012, including premium in-game experiences, direct sale of digital assets and processing player-to-player transactions. Digital distribution will also see substantial growth in this timeframe.

The market overall has room for growth, although not at the rapid rate many are projecting. The overall change will be slightly upward, but mostly due to declines in other traditional media, not because more people will be playing games. Inspired by the success of media darlings WoW and Second Life, many more MMOGs have already gone into development, with some scheduled to appear "in the next few years." A majority of them will fail if they actually make it to market, and handful of them will explore new genres and succeed for what they are, but there will be a lot of crashing and burning along the way.


As a result, niche markets are becoming more necessary than ever. Aiming for the outskirts, rather than trying to be "the next best big thing for everybody super game of awesome," will keep the industry growing in the long-term instead of trying to be "the next best big thing for everybody super game of awesome."

Since persistent worlds will continue to present an interesting opportunity in the realm of entertainment, there's never been a better time to experiment with ideas. It's a big development world out there; what designers do with the virtual ones is truly limitless.

Nova Barlow is the Research Manager for The Escapist/TAP Interactive and likes to gaze into crystal balls on occasion. She is also a regular contributor to WarCry.

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