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Internet version of the quiz show. He spends around 15 hours weekly playing the t rex game. However, if Sony Online Entertainment ever asks him to pay for the game, he’ll leave faster than you are able to say “potent potables.”

“There are plenty of game sites available,” he was quoted saying in a online chat. “Why pay if you don’t must?”

Preston, who would only give his first name, represents one side in the notoriously bipolar online gaming industry–a market that has to overcome some serious barriers to attain the billion-dollar revenue growth analysts expect across the next few years.

Using one side in the market cost nothing, advertising-supported games such as “Jeopardy Online” and also the myriad card and board games provided by sites including Yahoo and Pogo. Squeezed from the same advertising pressures facing other online content providers, websites like these are scrambling to find ways to make a consistent profit.

On the reverse side are online role-playing games, by which players pay monthly subscription fees to have interaction with some other players in huge virtual worlds. Popular games for example Sony’s “EverQuest” and Electronic Arts’ “Ultima” have large numbers of paying players, generating steady revenue streams envied by other segments of the software business. However the complex fantasy worlds in which the games exist appeal to just a small minority of significant game players, in comparison with the overall game market.

“The process for companies focused on Web-based games is in order to bridge that gap and make a form of crossover involving the casual gamers as well as the hard-core gamers,” Jupiter Media Metrix analyst Billy Pidgeon said. “The theory is to discover a middle ground: those who don’t play around hard-core gamers but they are still willing to pay for a service.”

Market researcher IDC predicts that total United states revenue from online gaming will increase almost 50 % annually on the next few years, from $210 million last year to $1.8 billion in 2005.

Jupiter predicts similar growth, with U.S. revenue projected going to $2.55 billion in 2006. Advertising revenue will continue to take into account about 30 percent from the market, Jupiter forecasts, with the bulk of revenue provided by subscriptions.

In the meantime, most of that subscription growth is likely to result from variations on familiar role-playing game formulas. Sony is developing “Star Wars Galaxies,” run 4 game in accordance with the film series “Star Wars,” while Vivendi Interactive has similar plans for “The Lord of the Rings.”

Both expect the mass appeal of the franchises to broaden the potential audience for role-playing video games. But David Cole, president of market researcher DFC Intelligence, warns that a strong brand won’t be enough.

“I feel it’s a lot about game design and making it not intimidating towards the casual user. (Role-playing games) typically are games that take a great deal of time for people to try out; the majority of people don’t wish to devote so much time to a pastime,” Cole said.

“Brands are very important. However, if you dextpky35 the same old intensive, 20-hour-a-week experience, people aren’t gonna stay around that long,” he added.

Kelly Flock, president of Sony Online Entertainment, said the design and style issues are section of the company’s strategy for expanding the crowd for online role-playing video games.

“The next games we’re designing now are definitely done with the intent being much easier to look inside and outside of,” Flock said. “Particularly with ‘Star Wars Galaxies,’ the overwhelming majority of folks that go to that game will probably be brand new to the (role-playing game) category.

“The secret is making it easy to get going and play at your pace, yet provide enough value and depth and so the consumer feels they’re getting their money’s worth.”

Still, real rise in run ninja run will mean going beyond role-playing and creating innovative new styles that intrigue people with the average interest in games.