Welcome back! To start afresh, I thought you'd like a post on gaming, to remain in a (somehow) playful holiday mood while getting right down to business. ---- Social gaming and online gaming in general is without doubt in the ascendency, given even search giant Google seems to have accepted defeat with its in-house developed Google Wave product; and sensibly invested in social gaming giant Zynga, plus acquired facebook developer company, Slide. Social gaming remains one of the biggest growth areas in the online industry and the most popular online activity within social media. Such activity has seen Zynga grow into a business worth reportedly $5 Billion in virtual products. A market which Facebook of course, wants in on, with their development of Facebook credits, of which the company plans to take a 30% cut. Credits for virtual currencies from Zynga available for sale in retail stores in the U.S. (these ones I saw in San Francisco in this case) Elsewhere in online gaming, online gambling businesses are also booming. UK online betting and gaming site Ladbrokes recently announced 5.7% customer growth driven by the growth in bingo and sportsbook. In addition the industry was met with news of a merger between PartyGaming (online gaming) and Bwin (online betting and real money gaming), last week, which has created the world’s largest listed online gambling business. I spoke to Richard Sharp, owner of online Bingo-reviewer, one of the largest bingo resource websites in the UK. Sharp told me that online bingo seems to be experiencing a second renaissance in the UK, which is perhaps linked to the increasing popularity of social gaming, helped in some way by the effect of the recession and people turning to in-house leisure activities as a cheaper alternative. Sharp said “we’ve noticed a huge increase in visits to our New Bingo Sites section in the past months, and attribute this to the overwhelming consumer choice of game and bonus offers, and a resurgence in interest in online Bingo.” As for sportsbook, or sports betting, it is similarly driving significant increase, as advances in realtime technology bring greater “bet in play” opportunities. Anyone who watched a world cup match in Europe will recall the almost total domination of gaming advertisers announcing live odds on realtime scenarios – which of course adds to the excitement. Whether Facebook, Zynga, Google or online bingo, it seems that online gaming is a market driving sector for the online industry at large.