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Online gaming worth a $20bn in 2012 as more devices connect

The online gaming market will continue its steady growth in 2012, winning revenues of more than $20bn.

Technology developments will mean new opportunities for connected devices beyond the computer, a report from ABI Research's 'Gaming in the Cloud' report  also predicts, which examines the casual and Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games markets and the potential role for connected consumer electronics. The Asia-Pacific region - especially China - will drive much of this growth, the report asserts; however, in China, due to generally lower levels of personal PC ownership, the business models are evolving differently, explains ABI Research analyst Michael Inouye.

"'World of Warcraft', for instance, generates significant revenue for Activision in Europe and North America on a subscription basis, but in China, despite a large 'subscriber' base, the revenues are far smaller," Inouye says. "It's more of a pay-as-you-go model, using prepaid game cards. This also creates a greater reliance on Cloud- or server-based games."

Another difference in Asia is regulation, Inouye adds: "In China, Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere the rules are more exacting in what they allow. Some games for instance, have had to alter their content: using 'World of Warcraft' again as an example, the developers had to remove the virtual blood."

The increasingly varied and range of connected devices will also permit gaming on more platforms. The ABI report cites French broadband and IPTV provider, Free, which has partnered with Intel to develop a very advanced set-top box (STB), Freebox Revolution. The STB includes an Intel Atom processor, controller with gyroscopic inputs, Blu-ray player, powerline adapters, WiFi, and a game controller. While these games might be more locally- based for now, they point to the potential for opening this up to multiplayer and MMO gaming.

There are challenges, though, 'Gaming in the Cloud' points out. So-called mobile gaming (on smartphones, say) could be 'disruptive': "The market is fragmented, with proprietary platforms the rule, posing difficulties for developers trying to serve a number of smaller platforms rather than a few big ones," says Inouye, "and the growth of Cloud gaming demands more and bigger servers and data centres".

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