Which content returns the most dollars on the web and represents an industry in itself? Online gaming. This field is by far the most profitable online. After giving profits to winners, the industry has revenues of about US$12 billion . You cannot ignore this phenomenon when you are interested in electronic trade.
The Association of Online Content Editors has followed the evolution of profitable online content since 2001, and has always excluded two types of content from their analysis as they are “too strong for the league”: online games and pornography. While online gaming crossed the 12 billion dollar mark in profits after 2005, all other categories of profitable online content were going to cross the US$2 billion mark… conglomerated together.
Why does this type of content enjoy such resounding success? It is mainly due to their nature, since games, like alcohol, are a product that is difficult (read impossible) to ban. Online gaming is further helped by the fact that the Internet reduces, even eliminates, the social risk: the danger of being seen in the middle of gambling by any social relations. The elimination of the physical effort of going to a casino is a second argument, without mentioning certain areas where gaming is illegal and where gamers can play online.
Pathological gambling is unfortunately still a reality. According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project study in 2003, nearly 20% of American internet users go to online gaming sites every month, and 4% of them play online every day.
Where Loto-Québec is King and the master of gambling in general, online gaming thumbs its nose at the organisation. The Antilles and other islands with “flexible” jurisdiction, as well as (or especially) the Indian reserves in Quebec are the lands of the main online gaming portals. Even if the location where the server is geographically located is no longer important, the place where the company is registered or incorporated counts. It is still possible to pass judgment, although applying it has become rather more complicated…
In such a lucrative market, all the shots are pulled to please online gamers, and different techniques are used.
The purchase of keywords, although banned for this industry by Google, still provides results on other networks. Currently (February 2006,) biddings are at about US$5 per click for terms linked to online gaming, but they have previously exceeded US$20 per click, which is very revealing about the potential profits of “conquered” online gamers.
Another sector where these companies have distinguished themselves is ‘human’ advertising, where they have paid spectators at sporting events to streak in stadiums during large-scale events or, even worse, tattooed the foreheads of single mothers with the URL of online casinos in exchange for, at absolute best, the means to send their offspring to a private school.
Finally, to navigate the few laws that apply to this sector in terms of advertising, some companies create sites where you can learn how to play poker. It does not take much time for real online sites to be not-so-subtly recommended to the ‘pupil’ who is bombarded with offers to play in an environment where the request for this type of service was basically illegal.
I don’t think that people should be inspired by these kinds of practices in traditional eCommerce, unless working in sectors where social risk is very high. If not, you may be exposed to all kinds of risks. However, it is always interesting to study industries that are on the margins of others. Whatever we think, these industries are, despite everything, pioneers of online commerce.