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Internet version of your quiz show. He spends an average of 15 hours every week playing the t rex game. But if Sony Online Entertainment ever asks him to purchase the video game, he’ll leave faster than you may say “potent potables.”

“There are many game sites available,” he said in a online chat. “Why pay should you don’t have to?”

Preston, who will only give his first name, represents one side of your notoriously bipolar online gaming industry–a market that has to overcome some serious barriers to arrive at the billion-dollar revenue growth analysts expect on the next couple of years.

In one side from the market are free of charge, advertising-supported games such as “Jeopardy Online” along with the myriad card and board games available from sites including Yahoo and Pogo. Squeezed with the same advertising pressures facing other online content providers, such sites are scrambling to find ways to generate a consistent profit.

On the other side are online role-playing games, in which players pay monthly subscription fees to have interaction along with other players in huge virtual worlds. Popular games such as Sony’s “EverQuest” and Electronic Arts’ “Ultima” have tens of thousands of paying players, generating steady revenue streams envied by other segments of the software business. But the complex fantasy worlds where the games exist appeal to merely a small minority of significant game players, compared to the general game market.

“The challenge for companies dedicated to Web-based games is to try to bridge that gap and make a sort of crossover in between the casual gamers along with the hard-core gamers,” Jupiter Media Metrix analyst Billy Pidgeon said. “The theory is to locate a middle ground: individuals who don’t play just as much as hard-core gamers but are still willing to purchase services.”

Market researcher IDC predicts that total U.S. revenue from online gaming boosts almost 50 percent annually on the next number of years, from $210 million a year ago to $1.8 billion in 2005.

Jupiter predicts similar growth, with U.S. revenue projected hitting $2.55 billion in 2006. Advertising revenue continue to take into account about 30 percent in the market, Jupiter forecasts, with the bulk of revenue originating from subscriptions.

For now, nearly all of that subscription growth will probably come from variations on familiar role-playing game formulas. Sony is developing “Star Wars Galaxies,” run 4 based on the film series “Star Wars,” while Vivendi Interactive has similar plans for “The Lord of your Rings.”

Both expect the mass appeal of those franchises to broaden the possibility audience for role-playing games. But David Cole, president of market researcher DFC Intelligence, warns a strong brand won’t be enough.

“I think it’s a lot about game design and rendering it not intimidating towards the casual user. (Role-playing games) typically are games that take a whole lot of time for individuals to experience; many people don’t desire to devote much time to a pastime,” Cole said.

“Brands are crucial. However if you dextpky35 the same old intensive, 20-hour-a-week experience, people aren’t planning to stay around that long,” he added.

Kelly Flock, president of Sony Online Entertainment, said the style issues are portion of the company’s strategy for expanding the audience for online role-playing video games.

“The next games we’re designing now are definitely carried out with the intent for being easier to go in and out of,” Flock said. “Particularly with ‘Star Wars Galaxies,’ the overwhelming majority of people that arrived at that game will likely be not familiar with the (role-playing game) category.

“The secret to success is making it easy to get started and play at the pace, yet provide enough value and depth hence the consumer feels they’re getting their money’s worth.”

Still, real growth in run ninja run indicates going beyond role-playing and creating innovative new styles that intrigue individuals with the average curiosity about games.