Asia to propel online games growth

Region will be driving force of global online games market which will reach US$20 billion in 2012, finds new study. Rise of connected devices will also take games beyond traditional computer.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Asia will be the major force in pushing global online games sales which will hit just over US$20 billion in 2012, according to a new study by ABI Research.

China, in particular, will be the main growth engine, stated the report which was released Tuesday.

ABI Research's industry analyst, Michael Inouye, observed that the business model for online games will evolve "a little differently" in Asia due to a number of factors unique to the region.

For instance, China generally has a lower level of PC ownership, Inouye said in the report. Hence, revenues from games in the country are largely reliant on a pay-as-you-go business model, such as prepaid game cards, cloud- or server-based games, the analyst explained.

Earnings from a subscription base will be far smaller in the Asian country compared to markets in Europe or North America, he noted.

Regulations governing the online games market are also different across Asia, Inouye said in the report. In countries such as China, South Korea and Vietnam, "the rules are more exacting in what they allow", Inouye said. To illustrate, he pointed to how virtual blood had to be removed in certain games such as World of Warcraft (WoW) when distributed in these countries.

More connected devices, more games platforms
According to ABI, the growth of online games will also be driven by the increasingly varied range of connected devices, opening up more platforms--other than the traditional desktop--for multiplayer and massively multiplayer online games.

The research firm gave the example of the Freebox Revolution set-top box, which is made by French Internet service provider, Free. Besides functioning as an Internet router, the set-top box comes armed with an Intel Atom processor, a gyroscopic remote, Blu-ray drive, powerline adapters, Wi-Fi connectivity and game controller.

However, the creation of more game platforms will not be free from challenges, the report stated. For instance, more and bigger servers and data centers will need to be built to support cloud-based games, ABI said.

In addition, it added that mobile games such as those running on smartphones--which are popular in Asia--could be disruptive. The research firm explained that this market is fragmented with proprietary platforms, making it difficult for developers to serve several smaller platforms rather than a few major brands.

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