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MMO subscriptions 'fall for the first time'

But market continues to grow thanks to microtransactions, says Screen Digest

Subscriber revenues for PC MMOs and multiplayer online games in the US and Europe "declined for the first time ever in 2010, marking a historic shift in industry emphasis away from subscriptions and toward microtransactions", according to a new research from Screen Digest.

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Subscription revenue totalled $1.58 billion in 2010, down five percent from $1.66 billion in 2009, contrasting markedly with ten percent annual growth in 2009 and 21.6 percent growth the year before that.

"The 2010 decline in subscription revenue - the first annual contraction experienced by the market since our coverage of this segment started in 2002 - represents an inflection point for the industry," said Piers Harding-Rolls, senior analyst and head of games at Screen Digest.

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Balancing things out is increased revenue generated from microtransactions, which totalled $1.13 billion in 2010, up 24.2 percent from $909 million the year before.

"This more than compensated for the decline in the subscription area and caused total Western MMOG/MOG market revenue - both subscriptions and microtransactions - to rise to $2.7 billion in 2010, up 5.3 percent from $2.57 billion in 2009," said Harding-Rolls.

"Microtransaction revenue will continue to rise during the following years, expanding to $1.8 billion in 2015. This will drive up combined MMOG/MOG revenue in North America and Europe to $3.13 billion in 2015."

The combined MMOG/MOG market accounted for a 9.6 percent share of US and European spending on all games content in 2010, Screen Digest added.

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