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Study: Game growth to spur for-fee downloads

The online market for computer games is expanding, and fee-based downloads are what will bring in revenue for game companies, says market research firm IDC.

The market for downloadable games in the United States is poised to take off, with revenue projected to jump from $52.7 million in 2003 to more than $760 million in 2007, according to a study released Wednesday.

Market researcher IDC said the widening demographic of gamers and the continuing distribution of broadband services are giving a push to the online gaming market in the United States.

"After years of experimentation and evolution, the online PC gaming industry is closer than ever to reaching substantial and ongoing profits," Schelley Olhava, program manager for interactive consumer services and consumer devices at IDC, said in a statement.

The industry is witnessing significant change. Last week, America Online said it would integrate WildTangent-produced online games into its instant messenger service. In some markets in the Asia-Pacific region, gaming has beaten online shopping in popularity.

IDC said Wednesday that practically any genre of game--from serious role-playing games to casual ones such as pool or poker--can be found to fit interests and skill sets of different segments of the online community.

But for the market to see continued growth, the industry needs to widen the scope of content and move toward the e-business model of delivering downloadable games for a fee, the research firm said. Content quality must be high to support subscription-based gaming, and casual gaming Web sites will continue to earn money through advertising and sponsorship, IDC said.