Web 2.0 Summit: Social Gaming Hits The Mainstream - InformationWeek

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Web 2.0 Summit: Social Gaming Hits The Mainstream

In a market once dominated by teenage boys, Web 2.0 producers are seeing soccer moms and suburbanites getting involved in casual, mobile and social games.

Digital gaming is becoming a mainstream activity driven by new capabilities that make the entertainment medium more of a social activity, industry executives said Thursday at the Web 2.0 Summit.

During an onstage interview at the San Francisco conference, Trip Hawkins, founder and chief executive of mobile-game maker Digital Chocolate, said the industry has been expanding beyond the teenage boys and young men who were the mainstay of video-game companies.

Where those players sought out the most realistic games on the most powerful hardware, the soccer moms and other suburbanites playing games today are more interested in less-demanding products that are easy to use, fun, and can involve multiple players.

"What we're experiencing in this mass market phenomenon is that everyone is a gamer," Hawkins said.

In answering questions from Morgan Webb, host of the video-game news and review show X-Play, Hawkins listed three growing game categories: casual, mobile, and social. To a large extent, the industry was conforming to the idea that people are willing to spend money on social activities, so why not make that a game?

Robert Kotick, chairman and chief executive of computer game company Activision, agreed that the industry was transforming itself around social gaming, which is expected to present the industry with a broader advertising market. Today, advertising revenue accounts for only $200 million of the total $30 billion generated by the gaming industry, said Kotick, who joined Hawkins on stage.

That, however, will soon change as the number of video-game consoles that support online gaming and multiple players in the home grows. "We're about two or three years away from having a big enough installed base of Xbox [360s] and PlayStations," Kotick said, referring to consoles from Microsoft and Sony, respectively.

Advertising, however, would have to be subtle and incorporated within the game -- such as a game character drinking from a bottle of Coke -- in order to not alienate players, Kotick said.

During questioning from the audience, Kotick said that PlayStation 3 was the most advanced gaming platform, but very few game developers were building products that take full advantage of the console's powerful, multicore processor. However, he expected that to gradually change over the next four or five years. Sony released PS3 last November.

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