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We sure get emotionally invested when it comes to big shifts in the gaming market, but we also like to taper our video game-born excitement with some cold, hard facts from time to time. Well, maybe these aren’t facts in the typical sense, but they are projections coming from respected research experts! And a bunch of eggheads can never be wrong, right?

A post from Zacks Equity Research on its analyst blog dished out some major doom for the video game industry as a whole for the month of April, but it ended on a high note – at least if you love playing digitally-delivered games. The Zacks Analyst predicted the video game industry’s shift to digital delivery and online gaming will benefit video game publishers by reducing packaging costs. This means games should get cheaper as those savings are passed onto the gamers!

The blog’s forecast matches predictions made last year by Gartner, a well-respected research firm that covers a wide range of industries. Gartner highlighted online gaming as the fastest growing segment of the gaming market and expects that growth to continue through 2015.

What it Could Mean for Video Games

Digital delivery is fast becoming an industry game changer. More than a few of you have probably downloaded a game, so you understand the convenience factor. No need to brave the crazy rush of shopping malls and video game stores. No need to stay up to make midnight releases. Just hop online, download a game, and the next thing you know, you’re in videogame bliss!

Digital delivery gives another advantage to gamers – deeper content! One of the trends that’s been picking up a lot of steam, even with physical copy-based games, is downloadable content (DLC). DLC is content that comes out after a game’s release that owners of the game may download and install. DLC is sometimes free, while other times it comes for a small price, sort of like a mini game expansion.

The benefits to DLC are two-fold: 1) It allows for more episodic video game content, so gamers can buy a game, and then buy smaller chunks of additional gameplay, extending the game’s value without purchasing a whole new full-priced version; 2) Enables developers to respond to feedback and impove games through downloadable updates.

Have you ever played a game and found a level that you really love? Maybe it’s a type of puzzle presented in that level, maybe it’s the story arc that happens there. Whatever the reason, the level ends and you have to move on. DLC allows developers to release extra content within the same game based on the type of features their fans like the best.

New Pricing Model Gaining in Popularity

Another recent gaming trend that has stirred a lot of praise and dissent is the “freemium” pricing model for video games. Under this model, developers offer the game’s basic features for free, and charge for additional content. Freemium games work kind of like a demo, but (usually) with unlimited play time. Users are free to play the game to their heart’s content without spending a dime, but may not have access to all the items, characters or other features.

Opinions on freemium pricing models range from acclaim and approval to negative to angry condemnation, so be careful where you say “freemium!”

Luckily, casual and mobile gamers are probably OK to use the eight-letter F-word, due to the popularity of freemium mobile apps. Despite the controversy, a large portion of gamers play some sort of freemium-priced game, according to a study conducted by research company NPD. Eighty-four percent of gamers who try a freemium game continue playing, and 40 percent pay for game upgrades.

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