Danny Taggart's Blogarama

A more-or-less daily dose of news, politics, techmology, and any random thoughts that pass through my head.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Gaming markets (Part II)

Last time, I gave a brief overview of gaming markets and the issues surrounding them. I will now focus on their growth and their future prospects.

The growth of gaming markets can best be understood in relation to the growth of online gaming. The site MMOG Chart, a collection of MMO statistics, shows that total active MMO subscribers have grown exponentially, from half a million in the summer of 2000 to almost five million today.

Subscriber growth translates into growth of the gaming markets. Starting little over a year ago, the Gaming Open Market has traded almost $2 million in Second Life currency. This phenomenon is not an aberration - it is a response to real demand from real people. Why is buying virtual items so attractive? A few reasons:

1. The entertainment value.
2. People who play MMOs typically spend a significant amount of time in-game, leading to an emotional attachment.
3. The nature of MMO games imbues an investment mentality in the player. If I get this item, I can do X. If I level up, I can go to Y.
4. Virtual items are cheap, but they are used very often. This low-cost, high-volume system encourages impulse buying.

The game studios are starting to recognize the potential here. Sony announced the Sony Station Exchange, a real-money trading site for EverQuest players, will open in late June '05. Microsoft is also joining the party with its XBox Live marketplace for in-game items. How will increasing studio involvement affect the integrity of their games and the growth of the secondary markets serving them? The discussion will continue in Part III.