The market value for Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) outside Asia reached $1bn for the first time in 2006, according to research from media analyst Screen Digest.

The research also found that in addition to subscription services, which make up 87 percent of the market, in-game advertising and virtual item sales have also made an impression in the total figure.

The report analyses the current commercial climate for MMOGs and sizes the market, providing forecasts for revenue generated by 2011 for the key country markets in Europe and North America.

The North American subscription market was $576m in 2006, compared to the European market which was worth $299m. This was a dramatic increase from 2004 when it was worth $74m.

The increase in market value is largely due to the popularity of World of Warcraft. The online game generated revenue of $471m in 2006, accounting for 54 percent of the subscription market. The next most popular MMOG was Runescape, from UK developer Jagex.

Piers Harding-Rolls, games analyst at Screen Digest said: “During the past five years the Western landscape for MMOGs has become increasingly fragmented following the introduction of new genres of game including social-networking, virtual pet-rearing and virtual world building titles.”

Screen Digest forecasts that by 2011 over 10 million subscription accounts will generate $1.5bn in consumer spending within the online gaming market. The report also predicts that over the five-year period, Germany will remain the largest subscription market in Europe, followed by the UK.

Growth in the market will be mainly driven by “increasing broadband household penetration, increasing penetration of online console platforms, and the continued introduction of more casual MMOG experiences”.