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 Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 15:08 GMT
Gaming comes of age
Lord of the Rings video game
Movie tie-ins like Lord of the Rings are popular
BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida

The days when video games were just something for teenagers to play in their bedrooms are over.

Gaming has blasted its way into the mainstream to become a multi-million dollar business, rivalling the film and record industries.

The past 12 months look like being a bumper year for gaming, with sales of video games in the US alone set to break through the $10bn mark.

"We've gone from being a young and vibrant industry to going into maturity," said Mike Rawlinson, Deputy Director General of the trade body, the European Leisure Software Publishers Association, (Elspa).

"Gaming is here to stay," he told BBC News Online.

Gorgeous graphics

Interactive entertainment has become a leading leisure industry thanks to a generation who grew up with games like Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog and SuperMario.

Medal of Honour: Frontline
Realism of games has improved
The increasing popularity of gaming has been helped by the quality of the titles now on offer.

Gaming has come a long way since the appearance of Pong in 1972, with its two white paddles and a square ball against a black screen.

Thirty years later, technology is delivering games with gorgeously detailed graphics, regardless of what you play them on.

In 2002, gamers were able to experience the Normandy landings in Medal of Honour: Frontline, take on the role of a gangster in 1980s Miami in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or win the World Cup for England in 2002 Fifa World Cup.

Tie-ins with blockbuster movies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have also helped to attract more people to gaming.

Big spending

The launch of two new game consoles in 2002, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube, together with the enduring appeal of Sony's PlayStation 2, have driven sales.

screenshot from Vice City
Vice City is set in 1980s Miami
"We've seen a broadening of the game-playing market," said Mr Rawlinson from Elspa.

"We've had some fantastic content, especially in the run-up to Christmas. There's something for everyone."

And it is not just men who are enjoying playing games. Increasingly, the social aspect of games are attracting more and more women.

Simulation games like The Sims where you get to run a family's life, appeal to both men and women.

The enormous growth in the games industry is reflected in the sales figures. In the UK alone, people are spending more on games than on videos or going to the cinema.

With more than 1,000 games introduced this year, competition for the gamer's wallet has been fierce.

The controversial crime title, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, sold more than 250,000 copies in two days, with fans spending an estimated 10m on the game.

By the end of the year, the British are expected to have spent more than 1bn on games. Americans are expected to spend $4bn (2.5bn) on software and equipment by the end of 2002.

Online future

Many now see online gaming, where gamers do battle over the internet, as the next big thing. Multiplayer online role-playing games, known as MMORPG, are popular on the net.

2002 Fifa World Cup
Fifa football titles have sold well
Sony's online fantasy game EverQuest is played by millions across the world.

Both Microsoft and Sony are investing heavily in online gaming for their consoles and the research group Jupiter expects online gaming to be worth $1.7bn by 2007.

But some are cautious about the prospects for online gaming, though they do not doubt that it will happen.

"It is very early days," said Mr Rawlinson. "Online gaming on the PC is still a niche thing.

"There is the potential for a broader appeal with the Xbox and PlayStation 2 going online, but it is going to take a while."

What was the best game of 2002?

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City


Medal of Honour: Frontline

Pro Evolution Soccer 2

Super Mario Sunshine

14424 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

 Video games
Console wars, broadband and interactivity
See also:

27 Sep 02 | Technology
09 Nov 01 | Entertainment
09 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
12 Nov 02 | Technology
06 Dec 02 | Entertainment
29 Nov 02 | Technology
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