HOME Technology 2005
PC gamers remain loyal
New consoles next year
While international statistics suggest the PC, the original gaming platform, is slipping down the popularity stakes amid challenges from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo consoles, local gamers at least would challenge that.

With more powerful processors, added memory and a visual boost from powerful new graphics cards and faster networking capabilities, local PCs gamers are as enthusiastic as ever and will get more than their share of new games this Christmas from the likes of Microsoft and EA.

We’re not likely to see Xbox 360, PlayStation3 and the Nintendo Revelation consoles much before mid-2006 so PC games are making the most of their edge. Gameplanet Auckland store manager Scott Ries, says Christmas is always big for PC games with titles including Quake 4, the new Brothers in Arms, Civilisation 4, Age of Empires III, F.E.A.R, Call of Duty 2 (Xbox also),Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Rugby Challenge 2006 being released. There’s also Need For Speed – Most Wanted and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Concurrently on Xbox and Playstation2 are Battlefield 2 (PC also) and Sims 2. Among the Xbox offerings for the family are Spongebob Squarepants, Shrek Superslam and the Chronicles of Narnia. On the PS2 The Bourne Identity, Fast and Furious, the Chronicles of Riddick and Xeno Saga.

PricewaterhouseCoopers' Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2005-2009, says after a drop to single-digit growth in 2005 the games market is set to ramp up in 2006 as the next generation of consoles are introduced, leading to a new round of software spending. Online gaming is expected to boom as broadband penetration grows. An increasing number of people will download their games rather than buying them at retail outlets and new mobile phones will be used as much for entertainment as for communication. Overall, the video game market will expand at a 16.5 percent to $US55 billion in 2009 driven by growth in Asia/Pacific, the largest market.

Spokesman Wayne Jackson, says the entertainment and media industry continues to display an extraordinary ability to reinvent itself and create new revenue streams through innovative offerings that barely existed as recently as 2000. "Online and wireless video games, online film rental subscriptions, licensed digital distribution of music, and the rapid adoption of ring tones and mobile music downloads are becoming critical components of the industry and driving significant revenues across all regions."

Last year the mobile phones games market reached worldwide revenues of $1.44billion with 50 per cent growth expected over the next five years as all the major games and electronic entertainment companies look to capitalise on the trend. IDC says most mobile gamers want short bursts of entertainment up to 15 minutes at a time rather than something that competes with more complex games consoles.

Locally the PlayStation Portable (PSP) has captured the attention of a growing number of gamers. It delivers 3D games, full-motion video and stereo on a device with a 4.3-inch-wide, high-resolution TFT display. Telecom is making a strong pitch to support the gaming market allowing PSP users to connect to home wireless users from its 200 wireless hotspots across the country and launching a new Xtra Games site.

A new Xtra website also offers a range multiplayer, hosted, trivia, and board games and features the latest games news, reviews and message boards. The channel launched with over 40 game servers and a fully managed environment that hosts tournaments, ladders and the ability for gamers to book servers for themselves and friends.

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