The gaming middleware market will see “healthy growth” during the next five years, although third-party vendors will still face challenges, according to the latest study by Acacia Research Group.

Acacia’s study predicts that game developers, driven by the increased techical complexity of next-gen console and PC platforms, will continue to look to middleware solutions to power their games’ core graphics, physics, artificial intelligence, and other systems. The research firm expects the market for gaming middleware to increase at a compound annual rate of 11.9% over the next five years, from $308.2 million to $538.2 million.

Third-party middleware developers, whose products currently account for 25 percent of total spending on games middleware, should see their sales rise from just under $79 million in 2006 to more than $108.4 million in 2011. By 2011, 77 percent of games will employ third-party middleware, says Acacia.

Still, the study predicts that competition from in-house middleware solutions will be fierce. Acacia characterizes the middleware market as “volatile and risky,” and surmises that the next five years will “make or break” many third-party vendors.

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