Web gaming tools ramping up for a banner year
On-line console gaming is continuing to pick up steam in the U.S., if recent sales data is any indication. Industry analyst The NPD Group says within the video game accessories category, specialty game controllers and Internet components that let console players hook up to services like Xbox Live have grown the most so far this year, by 180% and 120% respectively from January to June. Console software (+4%) and accessories (+8%) posted comparatively mild increases over the same time period.
Total retail sales of console and portable video game hardware, software and accessories took a 2.5% dip, down from US$3.5 billion in the first half of 2003. And while dollar sales dropped for console hardware (-17%), portable hardware (-10%) and portable software (-12%), because Microsoft and Sony lowered the price of Xbox and PlayStation 2, unit sales actually went up by 1%.
Sega launches Chinese branch to super-serve in the East
Hoping to become a market leader in China, where an estimated 10 million on-line gamers reside, Sega has set up a regional office in Shanghai to create and license multiplayer web games specifically for Chinese players.
The company is planning three releases in 2005, starting with Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, which will be distributed through a deal with Chinese IT company Zarva Digital Entertainment. Next up, Sega will partner with Joyzone Networks on a Chinese on-line version of CTRacer. A Korean edition that hit the market in March 2003 had racked up 3.75 million subscribers by the end of June 2004. Sega has also partnered with Korea’s JC Entertainment to co-produce Shenmue Online, which will be operated in China by T2 Technology Holdings.