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F2P market is worth £216.5m in UK, but that’s behind the curve globally

It’s growing, but market is still dwarfed by struggling retail sector  UK virtual item sales will reach £266m by 2015 By Christopher Dring

IT MAY be the industry buzzword of the moment, but freemium games still have a long way to go before they take down retail. £216.5m will be generated in the UK by virtual goods sold in games such as FarmVille, League of Legendsand World of Tanks, research firm SuperData this week told MCV. Meanwhile retail – in what is the sector’s most challenging year to date – has already generated £812m from software sales, and that number is expected to grow

dramatically over the next eight weeks. SuperData Research also predicts that the free-to- play market in the UK will keep growing over the next three years, and will be worth £266.1m by 2015. A rise of 22.9 per cent. However, that’s a slower rate of growth than the rest of the world. According to the research firm, the global free-to-play market will be worth £9.3bn by the end of the year, and by 2015 that will rise to £14.23bn, an increase of 53.5 per cent. “It’s definitely Germany first, then France,” says Odile Limpach, head of Ubisoft’s free-to-play developer Blue Byte, which has created titles including Anno Onlineand Might and Magic Heroes Online. “We know that South America is big but it’s very different, there’s less money per person. US is still a

From left to right: Jagex’s Solari, Ubisoft’s Limpach and Perfect World Europe’s Hacker say free-to-play in the UK is growing, albeit slowly

difficult one, but not bad. UK is behind that, but everyone says it’s coming.” Gabriel Hacker, general manager at Perfect World Europe (the publisher behind Star Trek Onlineand more) added: “We don’t comment on numbers but the UK is definitely very important, let me put it that way. For Star Trek Online, which is one of our biggest games in Europe, the UK and Germany are the leading markets for that game. But it always heavily depends on the game. “The tastes are so different sometimes – I don’t know why but the French like the Chinese style. We have Chinese

The West in general has been slower than the

rest of the world. David Solari, Jagex

“ 4

games obviously because we are a Chinese company and they do very, very well in France, the French just dig it. The UK is very cynical.”

Jagex – the UK team behind the hit free MMO RuneScape– believes that the entire Western market has some catching up to do with Eastern territories. “The West in general has been slower than the rest of the world, with the exception of a couple of territories driven by some specific portals or products,” said the

firm’s chief marketing officer David Solari. “Asia has really led the way in free-to-play,

driven by high levels of internet connectivity in South Korea and the online gaming explosion there. “Competition in that

market then drove differentiation and Asian consumers really bought into free-to-play and it spread at great pace.” The data also revealed that in August the average revenue per customer in the UK was £11.25p for social games and £11.64p for free- to-play MMO games. That MMO figure increased to £12.15p in September, possibly due to new MMO Guild Wars 2.  For more analysis on the UK free-to-play market, turn to page 16.

RuneScape (above), Moshi Monsters (above top) and CSR Racing (above right) are amongst the major free-to-play games built in the UK

More free-to-play market news on p8  Features and analysis start on page 16 November 2nd 2012

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