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Download evolution of PC gaming
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2006-03-29 09:32
WALK into any store that sells or rents video games, and chances are you will find only a few shelves, if any, for personal computer games amid the aisles dominated by console software.

The PC still has a solid future as a gaming machine given the rising popularity of games played online - for both casual games like "Tetris" and intricate multiplayer games like "World of Warcraft."

But the way in which people get their games is getting a makeover as game makers experiment with online distribution as an alternative to boxed CD-ROMs.

Some companies are even betting that PC gaming is on the cusp of a download revolution, much like its entertainment counterparts in music and video.

"It's just another evolution of retail commerce of what in the end is a digital product," said Jamie Berger, general manager at IGN Entertainment.

IGN owns Direct2Drive, one of a growing number of online stores for downloadable PC games.

At its inception in September 2004, only four game publishers were on board, selling about 25 older titles. Today, the Website carries about 130 games from 44 publishers, including titles released the same day they hit physical store shelves.

While refusing to disclose specific figures, Berger said sales and traffic to the store have been tripling every month.

Meanwhile, Electronic Arts Inc's, Comcast Corp and Yahoo Inc are offering games-on-demand services in which computer users buy subscriptions to access and download PC games, ranging from "Scrabble" to "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell."

As more households get high-speed Internet connections, downloads become more practical. Downloading computer games can take anywhere from just a few seconds to a few hours, depending on the file size.

And judging by the success of Apple Computer Inc's iTunes Music Store - with more than 1 billion song downloads - more consumers are getting used to the notion of digital-only versions of media.

For gamers, downloads can be more convenient and provide instant gratification.

That's why market researchers are seeing these numbers:

- Traditional shrink-wrapped PC games in the US retail market are on the decline, falling to US$953 million in 2005, a 36 percent drop from US$1.5 billion in 2001, according to the NPD Group.

- Internet-related game revenues in North America, including online purchases, subscriptions and advertising, rose to US$1 billion in 2005, more than six times the US$160 million in 2001, according to DFC Intelligence.

- IDC predicts US sales of PC game downloads will almost double this year to about US$500 million and grow to US$763 million in 2007.

Digital distribution "is a very natural fit" for online games, said Marc DeForest, co-founder and lead designer of S2 Games LLC.

Online sales are good for small, independent game developers like S2, which have to otherwise compete for retail shelf space with blockbuster games from larger game makers, DeForest added.
Source:Shanghai Daily 
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