Client-based, free-to-play English language PC games will generate as much as $2 billion annually by 2015 due to a number of factors, according to a new report from market research firm DFC Intelligence.
The group says titles in that category brought in only $250 million in 2009, but it expects that the widespread adoption of high-speed internet connections, more consumers becoming acclimated to buying digital content, and improved payment options (e.g. prepaid retail cards) will help grow the market by 700 percent in the next five years.
"For many Korean companies, the market in North America has not taken off nearly as fast as they expected," admits DFC analyst Insun Yoon. "Much of this can be attributed to the immature infrastructure and a lack of established payment and service mechanisms."
Yoon adds, "The good news is that this is starting to change and consumers are starting to realize that the game play of top high-end [free-to-play] games can be quite sophisticated."
In its report, "The Market for English Language Client-Based Free-to-Play PC Games," the company argues that creative marketing, packaging, and distribution are key to generating increased revenues, as it says the most successful free-to-play games bundle products and subscriptions with bonuses like virtual currency or digital content.
DFC also expects that these games will have a combined total of 128 million registered users by the end of 2010. Though it says this number might seem much lower than the browser-based or social gaming audiences, the group points out that free-to-play titles have high conversion rates that can make up for their smaller userbases.
The research company says that one major challenge publishers in North America and Europe will face is the difficulty for consumers to successfully install large game clients. In a separate Online Game Delivery report, DFC notes that South Korea, Romania, Japan, and Sweden have significantly higher download speeds than the rest of the world.