95 million playing online by 2005

And they'll all be playing Hearts. Probably.

Source - Business Wire

A new report from research company DFC Intelligence has forecast that as many as 95 million people could be playing games online by 2005, although we would hazard a guess that many of these people will be playing the likes of Hearts, Bridge and the fiendishly addictive Wordox rather than Counter-Strike, EverQuest and Starcraft. It's also worth pointing out that most online gaming concerns are currently losing money hand over fist, but the success stories are certainly not to be sniffed at - report co-author Jessica Mulligan is reported as saying that "some of the online games currently on the market are going to generate well over $300 million in lifetime revenues", which is a hefty chunk of change by any standards.

Online gamers will be glad to know that "there is plenty of opportunity for money to be made in this space", according to David Cole, another of the authors. The report apparently also "stresses that online games are a product category where consumers should eventually spend substantial sums of money" [our emphasis], which will no doubt come as cold comfort for gaming service providers who are currently struggling to convince their customers to pay anything for services which they have been giving away for free for the last few years. Obviously something has to give sooner or later, and the high profile collapse of Barrysworld and troubles at GamePlay have certainly shown gamers here in the UK that running a service which nobody is willing to pay for is not a good way to make money.

In the long run the future is certainly bright for online gaming. We just might have to actually (and I know this may be shocking to some of you) pay for it at some stage.

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