Since 1999, major console makers including Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (SNE), Nintendo, and the now-defunct Sega have been touting online gaming as a mainstay of the industry. And though online console use is rising, mainstream apathy means the initiative has never matured.
Of the 172 million systems sold in the last generation of consoles*, an estimated 5 million gamers ventured online — representing just three percent of the market. But wouldn’t you know it, each and every major console circa the early 2000s was capable of online play (some better than others).
By comparison, there are currently 26 million “next-gen” consoles in households (11M Wiis, 11M 360s, 4M PS3s). As of August, Microsoft’s Xbox Live claimed more than 7 million active users, including paying and free silver account users that aren’t privy to online multiplayer.