Online Gaming - Searching For Bobby Fischers
The average age of a gamer is now 28. The video gaming industry (both PC and console-related - hardware and software), at well over US$15 billion, is larger than the movie box office business. Super Mario, the Wall Street Journal reports, has sold more software on the basis of his mustachioed mug than Mel Gibson or Schwarzenneger have sold tickets at the box office. This being said, revenues related to online gaming have been, to date, negligible, but this may be small change if online gaming really takes off.
We have always had online gaming, but it has been limited to strategy games that can be played on dial-up connections, such as chess. This is changing. The world's largest online gaming company, South Korea's NCSoft, generated a net profit margin of 41% in the first half of calendar 2002. Its top game, Lineage, has over 4,000,000 subscribers, and one man recently passed away after playing the game continuously for 86 hours without food or water. The television show "48 Hours" recently profiled a number of online addicts to Sony's online adventure game, EverQuest, which boasts 450,000 subscribers who pay US$13 per month for the privilege of playing the game. EverQuest players control characters that acquire possessions and skills that can be bartered in the game or 'sold for real money' on sites such as eBay. Amazingly, EverQuest, the game, has established a real economy outside the virtual world.
South Korea's NC Soft - Look at Those Margins!
Microsoft's (MSFT-Q) soon-to-be-released Xbox Live has a Voice Communicator that is plugged into the controller and allows players to talk (trash talk, etc.) with other players. Just look at the popularity of those mundane message boards on the Web. What if that social interaction could also incorporate gaming activities?