Multiverse's Corey Bridges spoke at the SXSW conference about the effects digital distribution and the democratization of advanced development tools will have on the industries of gaming, social networks, and virtual worlds.
Gamasutra put together a great summary of the talk. The thesis: just as they are stripping the entrenched establishments of the music and film industries of much of their oligarchical power, new technologies will transform online gaming and virtual worlds. According to Bridges, virtual worlds are just getting started. "WoW is not a fad," he said, "it's a harbinger." Furthermore, the virtual worlds will be in the hands of indies, not the major conglomerates, and they'll be synergized with social networks.
Bridges also touched on the notion of a more splintered industry made up of smaller projects catering to lots of niche tastes, as opposed to the huge Hollywood-budget productions we see today. A while back someone said that it would take at least a $1 billion super project to take on World of Warcraft. But maybe, as it was with the Roman Empire, the wolves at Blizzard's gate will be countless smaller tribes made up of the so-called unwashed hordes.