This IDC study provides an analysis of the U.S. online PC gaming market. The study is divided into several sections. The first, Situation Overview, discusses the current online PC gaming market, including content and business models. The second, Future Outlook presents a 2004-2008 market forecast, including free and paid subscribers, downloadable games, and market revenue. It also provides an analysis of the future of three segments of online PC game content: persistent state worlds (PSWs), casual games, and downloadable games/games on demand.
‘The online PC gaming market represents a diverse market, accounting for a plethora of content and emerging business models that have successfully tapped into a diverse demographic of users. Industry revenue is expected to reach $656.3 million in 2004, growing to over $2 billion by 2008.’ – Schelley Olhava, program manager, Consumer Markets: Gaming
Today, 41% of Internet users in the United States play PC games online. The market has been on a growth path, gaining gamers and blazing trails in the development of new business models, content, and usage patterns. Much like any other evolving market, growth has been obtained through experimentation and evolution, as well as at the expense of a number of not-so-successful attempts that, ultimately, have provided valuable lessons learned and used throughout the industry.
At a very basic level, the market can be segmented into two categories: PSWs and casual games. Five years ago, the two groups were clearly differentiated: the PSW targeted the hard-core and serious gamer audience through massive multiplayer online role-playing games (RPGs) such as Everquest and Ultima Online (often referred to as “Dungeons and Dragons” content); and the casual gamer targeted the mass-market Internet user with a selection of content based on familiar card, board, and trivia games at sites such as zone.com, pogo.com, and Yahoo! Games. Five years ago, PSW revenue was derived from subscription fees (of those that charged gamers to play), and revenue for casual games was almost solely derived from advertising and sponsorships. Whether casual gamers would pay to play was a significant and frequently asked question, to which the industry has only begun to see positive answers emerge within the past two years.
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