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Over 10bn Social Networking & Online World Accounts Created To Date

Analyst firm In-stat has calculated that well over 10 billion social networking and online world accounts have been created by the end of 2010 with nearly half of them still active.

The growth of free social networking websites like Facebook or Twitter can be credited for the exponential rise in the number of so-called SNOW accounts.

Where before, virtual worlds were the realm of paid-for subscription-based gaming services like World of Warcraft, the pervasiveness and ease of access of the newcomers means that more people are creating accounts online than ever before.

That said, profitability still firmly remains on the side of online gaming service; a report from ABI research published last year says that the market for MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games globally will reach $14 billion by 2015, up from $7 billion in 2010.

The increase prevalence of smartphones rather than feature phones has also been a vital ingredient in the spreading of SNOW worldwide with some analysts expecting more than 500 million smartphones to be sold this year alone.

Vahid Dejwakh, an industry analyst at In-stat, reckons that the virtual goods revenue model will be one of several mediums that SNOWs will use to generate a regular and sustainable revenue stream.

Dejwakh added that "The basic premise is to allow everyone to create an account and play for free and then offer users the option of purchasing virtual goods to be able to move up and advance in the game or just to have more fun."

In-stat figures show that social and casual games on SNOWs and mobile phones has spawn a market worth $2 billion already with the top 10 virtual goods companies earning nearly three quarters of the market.

Furthermore, SNOWs are expected to use advertising deals (from display, creative solutions to branded goods offers) to generate a "substantial" amount of their revenue online.