The supposed death of PC gaming has been predicted ad nauseam. However, every day millions of people all over the world switch on their computers and play a massively multiplayer turn-based strategy game. And we're not talking about Farmville.
Online poker may strike fear into the heart of neo-con America, but the last decade has seen its popularity explode. The game is now enjoyed by a wide demographic, one that includes more traditional gamers.
Indeed, a survey conducted by The Poker Channel revealed that over 70 per cent of its audience plays both poker and videogames at least once a week. Furthermore, their average gaming viewer buys between five and eight games a year, and plays for more than five hours per week.
Predictably the key platforms are PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. The most popular games are Call of Duty, FIFA, World Of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto. Given this evident crossover, the channel is planning to launch a bespoke videogames show to complement its poker-based broadcasts.
While the perennially parlous games industry seems to lurch from crisis to crisis, online poker has been through its own peaks and troughs. At the height of the poker boom in the middle of the last decade, leading operator Party Poker was believed to be turning over $1m a day.
But US Congress seriously curtailed this in 2006 with the introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which effectively outlawed poker sites from taking money from US-based players. Some sites lost up to 80 per cent of their customers overnight. In gaming terms, it's the equivalent of Americans being banned from playing massively multiplayer online games (arguably no bad thing).
However, two privately owned companies effectively ignored the ruling and instantly became market leaders. At the time of writing there are 181,165 people currently playing on PokerStars. The figure for Full Tilt Poker stands at 82,453. Bearing in mind that each player pays 10 per cent of his or her entry fee to the operator, it's a business model arguably on a par with a successful MMO.
The MMO comparisons don't end there. Online poker has its roots in text-based programs of the late nineties, back before more graphically advanced iterations appeared.
One company blurring the line between gaming and poker is Camden-based PKR, which recently celebrated its fourth birthday. Shunning the perfunctory 2D graphics of rival offerings, PKR is an all-singing, all-dancing 3D affair with customisable avatars, emotes, speech, chicken noises, loser signs, funky dancing and a lot of the things you'd associate with an MMO character - albeit sat at a poker table in one of a variety of locales, both exotic and mundane. A future update even promises an achievements system, which unlike Microsoft's, will offer tangible rewards.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, PKR's founders have their roots in the videogames industry. The company was set up by six industry veterans including ex-EA employee Jeremy Longley, Jez San (who put the money up) and Leon Walters, both formerly of Argonaut.
"Some of us were poker players and we thought all poker software out there at the time was crap," explains Walters. "We thought, 'We could do better than that, we can make it entertaining.'
"I brought a kind of massively multiplayer sensibility from a design perspective, whereas Jeremy and Jez were about making sure the core poker experience was what it needed to be. We had the right skills; we'd been making videogames probably between us for over a hundred years.
"We wanted to try and do something as mass market as we possibly could and videogames are pretty ubiquitous these days. They're the biggest industry out there, give or take, so we saw it as a natural progression of poker software."
Despite huge scepticism from the wider poker world, establishing PKR was a gamble that paid off.
"If you look at the size of the company's annual revenues we're up there relative to videogame developers, and the actual development team is quite small," says Walters.
"We're more like a publisher who makes one game, and we're running it as an MMO. We made £36 million in revenue last year and I guarantee our profit margin is a hell of a lot more than on videogames."
According to Walters, online poker and gaming can happily co-exist. "I think there's room for both, but I think it depends on the kind of videogames you play. Your PS3 and your Xbox players are fairly complementary, I don't think they're mutually exclusive at all. I still haven't finished Read Dead Redemption, though..."
The cross-pollination between poker and gaming also occurs within other areas. Dave Woods, arguably the last truly great editor of the now-defunct PC Zone, left to launch PokerPlayer magazine - describing it as the time as "the best job in the world".
Many professional poker players are also big gamers. Self-confessed "super-nerd" Jimmy 'gobboboy' Fricke takes his handle from the Orcs' nickname for goblins in Warhammer, something that may or may not have helped the young American win $800,000 in a live tournament in Australia.
The most famous gamer-turned-poker pro is Frenchman Bertrand 'Elky' Grospelier, who decamped to South Korea for a few years to earn a living on the Starcraft circuit before discovering poker. He even claims that some of the concepts are similar.
But what are the key concepts of online poker? Is it just a lazy man's version of the real thing?
People often ask how you can play without seeing your opponent but despite Lady Gaga's tuneless paean, the so-called poker face is only a small part of the puzzle. It's essentially a combination of strategy, maths, patience, aggression and the obligatory slice of luck.
And you don't have to bankrupt yourself. Most sites offer freerolls, whereby free tournament entries give you the chance to win a small cash prize and build a bankroll from scratch. (In fact, during the course of writing this feature, I have won 26p from Sky Poker – that's living alright.) You can also practice with play money, but let's be honest - if you're not playing poker for money, you're not playing poker.
Time is probably the largest currency and it's comparable to Football Manager, a game that I personally wasted years of my life on with nothing to show for it apart from taking a pretend team to mid-table obscurity. Conversely, I have wasted years of my life playing online poker and have money in the bank to show for it.
Football Manager supremo Miles Jacobson once admitted to me that his games can't compete with online poker. FM is now something I would only consider playing on an aeroplane (until airborne wi-fi comes in). While I still play the big console games, none of them as yet have presented me with a cheque at the end. That said, Richard Branson's Virgin Gaming is clearly a spin-off of his Virgin Poker model.
Ultimately, videogames and online poker are things to distract us from hurtling to our doom on a dying rock, and both are here to stay. Online poker pro Chris Moorman recently told PokerPlayer magazine: "As a kid I always thought, imagine if you could play videogames for money – it'd be the best thing ever. It's a bit like that." Except better paid.