Gaming as an industry is larger than the music or movies industry and is becoming increasingly popular as more people come to experience the thrill of playing online.
Carolyn Holgate, MWEB GM, says whereas movies combine amazing visuals and sound effects to engross you in a story line, gaming offers an even more in-depth immersive experience.
"The difference with gaming is that instead of simply watching the story unfold, you participate in the game, heightening the experience through your engagement with the game," she says.
In the United States gaming generated $17.02 billion last year according to the NPD Group while movie sales in the States only generated $9.42 million according to The-Numbers.com.
In South Africa, close on 3.9 million physical games were sold in 2011 valued at over R900 million. According to the The-Numbers.com, local movies ticket sales were in the region of R788.13 million.
Together with gaming hardware and peripherals, GfK research shows gaming is a R1.72 billion industry locally and this doesn't even include digital game downloads.
The music industry faces continual decline of physical sales as digital downloads take over and music stores diversify their offerings.
The power of online gaming
Holgate believes it's the online element of gaming which is really driving the market as gamers are able to pit themselves against an endless list of opponents in order to hone their skill and move themselves up leader boards. This results in hundreds of hours of gameplay as opposed to the average movie that only lasts 90 minutes.
In fact, online gaming is so popular that MWEB recently sponsored a team which represented South Africa in the Clanbase NationsCup 2012 for Battlefield 3 where they competed online against Australia, Belgium, Finland, Portugal and Russia.
"The growth of online gaming has led to the formation of groups of gamers called multi-gaming organisations (MGOs) which have several teams across different games in the MGO who compete to be the best in their respective games.
"In fact many of these gamers will spend more time playing against each other during the week, conversing through online chat and voice applications like Mumble and Teamspeak than they will in social interaction with friends," says Holgate.
That doesn't mean gamers are anti-social, merely that much of their communication has moved online.
The key factors for online gamers are line speed, uncapped ADSL and the ability to play on local servers. Uncapped ADSL is optimal because some of the games are substantial to download and even if a physical copy of the game is bought, game patches now run into many gigabytes of data.
Holgate says playing on servers overseas can become problematic because of the lag time.
Lag is caused by the delay in the transfer of data. In other words if you play an opponent based in Europe, the delay caused while the data travels to South Africa slows down the gaming experience. While you think you see the opponent on the screen, the opponent has in fact already moved, but you don't see this because the image updates too slowly. This is why gamers prefer to play on local severs.
Holgate says MWEB has 157 game servers deployed for 59 game titles and that the average number of active gamers on the MWEB network for the last three months have increased by 8%.
And as console sales continue to increase and more people start using Uncapped ADSL at home on faster line speeds, Holgate expects the online gaming industry to continue growing locally.
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