2005 was the year of social networks, 2006 was the year of online video, and Jason Miller asks, is 2007 The Year of the Online Game?
Some of the stats he uses to make his point are quite interesting. According to Hitwise's Sandra Hanchard, video gaming sites are dominant in the entertainment category that includes everything from YouTube to Pogo. About 23.8% of visits were to online gaming sites, compared with 12.2% for multimedia sites, and 5.9% for movies.
"While we've seen the recent explosive growth of YouTube and video sharing," says Hanchard, "it would seem that the online Games industry is deserving of more attention by marketers and advertisers given its prominence in website visits."
This is happening at the same time as a movement of folks calling for the end of measuring page impressions, and calling for measuring time instead (see Evan, Fred Wilson, and Steve Rubel). If Flash, Ajax, and widgets really cause the industry to start measuring properties by time spent instead of impressions, I would argue that the attention to the gaming category is going to go through the roof.
For instance, I ran a couple numbers comparing YouTube to Pogo.com -- and they look like what you expect:
But, then I took a look at time spent per site, and things start to flip on their head. I combined this with unique visitors to get a rough sense of "ratings" (the second image). If time becomes the major metric, the Internet is going to start looking very different indeed.
All that may test our assumptions of what the next big thing is, but does that make THIS the year of online gaming? I don't think so.
First, we aren't measuring the web that way yet. Second, the social networking and online video memes were pronounced as the thing only after the massive exit of MySpace and YouTube, respectively. But with Blizzard owned by Vivendi already and SecondLife experiencing hype-fatigue, there isn't a prospect of a big exit for 2007 (with the possible exception of Runescape).
But online gaming is as much a way of life for teens as social networking. 40% of teens value their online friendships -- one's made in MySpace, Habbo Hotel, or Club Penguin -- just as important as their offline relationships. And which way do you think that statistic is going to trend?
That makes the more likely scenario that there is pretty big future amongst the current crop of just under the radar companies like K2 Network, or one of the recent startups like Red5, Areae, or perhaps what we are working on here at Conduit. Stay tuned it should be an interesting next 18 months.