Gaming trend moves online with consoles

With recent research indicating a significant increase of online console gaming in the United States, gaming industry insiders such as Internet service providers, game developers and the “Big Three” consoles – Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation 2 and Nintendo Gamecube – are looking to capitalize on the growing trend.

In a report compiled by In-Stat/MDR, the revenue opportunities for companies in the online gaming industry were estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Online gaming is a real industry, which will make real money,” said Eric Mantion, a senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR.

Stressing that service providers make preemptive plans to exploit the untapped online gaming market, Mantion emphasized the dangers of missing out on potential revenues.

“The biggest risk to any company that is even marginally affected by online gaming is to dismiss it out of hand or put plans on the back burner until they think it matures,” Mantion said.

Researchers, who have monitored gamers’ use of the U.S. backbone Internet traffic, agreed with Mantion that service providers should capitalize on the online console gaming market.

“Although the average amount spent per online console household will drop from $167 in 2003 to $157 in 2005, the number of users will dramatically increase,” said Mike Cruz, senior analyst for GartnerG2.

“Online console gaming will become an assumed feature in 2005,” Cruz said.

With many console game developers such as Electronic Arts, Capcom and Bungie Studios utilizing online capabilities, game developers can expect to do big things in the online console market.

Many franchise titles are becoming more popular with the option to play them on the Internet and competing against players on an international level.

“There’s nothing like playing a game of Halo online,” said Kenneth Kania, 20, from Crestview.

Sports simulators, MMORPG’s role-playing games and military-action simulators are increasing in popularity on the Net.

Already mainstream in American households, the Xbox, PS2 and GC look to cash-in on the biggest trend in the gaming industry.

According to In-Stat/MDR, all three consoles expect to make $650 million a year in online subscriptions, and by 2005, most console will be on a pay-for-play model.

“It’s not that expensive,” said Kania, a U.S. Army private. “You buy a card and it’s like 40 bucks for 12 months [Xbox exclusive deal]. It’s cheap.”