What is the future of online multiplayer gaming? In many ways, it has already arrived. Since online multiplayer first appeared as an add-on or bonus for console games less than a decade ago, it has evolved into a dominant feature of the gaming industry itself.
Some estimates put the current number of online console gamers above 50 million. But even if we all grab our controllers and connect at the same time, it doesn’t mean there will be enough players to make online gaming an on-demand experience for everyone on all titles. At Virgin Gaming, that experience is an important part of how we see the future. Here are some thoughts on how we’ll get there.
A SOCIAL ELEMENT
Virgin Gaming combines three elements that define the hottest online trends: social networking, competitive gaming and video games. Together, they act as a sort of alchemy that brings gamers to play for cash, points and prizes.
Multiplayer gaming used to demand getting all your friends into one room and creating a LAN for consoles. Now you can just meet in a Virgin Gaming lobby and create a match, regardless of where your friends may be.
As games are released with greater multiplayer functionality, it seems there are more and more opportunities to gain achievements, medals and awards.
Many players see the capture of trophies and benchmarks as a bragging right, which you can chart through your Virgin Gaming online profile and chat about with other players in your list of friends.
Along with the social media element comes the competitive gaming aspect. We have seen that players have accepted the concept of micro payments in exchange for new content and a more immersive experience. What could be a more compelling way to get deeper into a game than to have a prize pool riding on the outcome? At Virgin Gaming, our platform offers free and paid entry tournaments, as well as bigger prize pools and loyalty programmes, extending our appeal to a wide range of casual, competitive, and hardcore gamers.
The final element to our alchemy is video games themselves. A greater number of console games are being created with the intention of bringing players together online to enjoy a shared experience.
Virgin Gaming is preparing to launch team play for Halo: Reach. Team play will be branching out to all the games we support, and represents a natural evolution of what competitive gaming and our platform can provide.
In fact, our alchemy also provides innovative opportunities for our partners. Virgin Gaming’s secure and rewarding platform, and our proven ability to integrate with key retailers, offers publishers, distributors and channel partners exciting new revenue streams.
I’m not sure what heaven for gamers looks like, but I suspect it’s something along the lines of playing against anyone, anytime, on the title of your choice, with the option to play for your share of a prize pool. At Virgin Gaming, we’re looking to grow an audience large enough to make this nirvana of online multiplayer gaming a reality.
BY THE NUMBERS
How important has online multiplayer gaming become? Here’s a snapshot of stats from the last 12 months.
7500% – Gameplay activity increase for Halo 3: ODST on May 3rd, 2010 – the first day of Halo: Reach multiplayer beta (you needed ODST to play the beta)
5,901 man-years – how much time gamers spent playing Halo: Reach in its first week of release
4 billion – number of online multiplayer hours logged by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 players
17% – percentage of most frequent gamers who pay to play online games
BIO: ROB SEGAL
A respected games industry veteran, Segal is CEO of Virgin Gaming – the new competitive gaming venture spearheaded by British entrepreneurial icon Sir Richard Branson. Segal also spent 14 years as CEO of marketing and ad firm Segal Communications.