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Mobile Gaming On Strong Growth Path

24 Feb, 2006 By: John Latchem

Nintendo is introducing VoIP with new games such as Metroid Prime: Hunters.

Online and mobile gaming is growing fast. A new study from ABI Research predicts the overall video game market will expand from $32.6 billion in 2005 to $65.9 billion in 2011, boosted by this segment.

The online gaming market will grow at a 95% annual rate for the forecast period, the study says. Console, PC and handheld hardware and software will remain significant, but will see slower growth rates.

“The online console gaming market is set to take off as the new generation of consoles arrives with advanced networking and online gaming capabilities,” said analyst Michael Wolf. He added that the ability to download game demos, buy console games online and access advanced content, including HD video, “will result in ‘online' becoming the key technology component of gaming for this and subsequent console generations.”

Nintendo is keeping with the trend by making it possible to watch live TV and surf the Web on the Nintendo DS using the dual-screen portable game device.

Opera Software is creating a Web browser for Nintendo DS that will work with its built-in Wi-Fi functionality. It will allow gamers to surf the Web on both the touch-sensitive and regular screens using the stylus and onscreen keypad. A U.S. launch is expected later this year.

Starting next month, Nintendo DS gamers will be able to download game demos, trailers and other content via thousands of retail kiosks nationwide that send content over Wi-Fi, according to Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo EVP of sales and marketing.

Using the Nintendo DS' built-in Wi-Fi technology, owners can download content from anywhere within a 15-foot radius of the kiosk, and it will remain on the device until it is shut off.

Nintendo also is introducing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) with new games. This will allow players to use the built-in microphone to talk in real-time before and after online matches of games. Combining VoIP with Wi-Fi paves the way for Nintendo to further expand the cell-phone-style communication of its gaming device.

In November, Nintendo partnered with Wayport to allow gamers free Wi-Fi hot spots at more than 6,000 McDonald's restaurants. More than 850,000 unique Nintendo DS gamers have played games on Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection, with more than 20 million different connections.

Nintendo continues to dominate the portable gaming market, The NPD Group reported. Portable game sales represented 25% of the video game market last year.

Chris Marlowe and John Gaudiosi of The Hollywood Reporter contributed to this report.

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