Unlike the fledgling gaming industry of the 1980's, the industry today is a robust creature with a huge consumer-base and long-established development houses. MMOs are no longer seen as the risky ventures they once were and some have even secured eight-figure investment deals. When EVE Online was first pitched as an idea, they had to try very hard just to convince potential employees that it could be done. Today, the genre is tried and tested. Jobs working on a next gen MMO are possibly the most prized in the entire games industry and there is more competition for those spots than ever. Not only are we now seeing an eruption of MMO gamers into the talent pool but the industry is also in the strongest position it's ever been to capitalise on it.
On the other side of the professional divide, the costs of software, art and game development have dropped by huge amounts in the past few years. While the firmly established development houses typically have large budgets to play with, indie game studios and new business start-ups are popping up at an increasing rate. Powerful artist's tools, pre-built game engines, specialised hardware, new programming languages and useful development frameworks now exist to speed up the development process. Distribution platforms like XBox Live Arcade and Steam have even provided a low-cost route to market and the proliferation of online blogs has begun making word of mouth one of the most powerful and cost-effective advertising tools available. For the first time since the early boom of the late 80's and early 90's, small teams or even individual developers stand a chance of competing in this behemoth of an industry.
Making games is often said to be a task for the young. Perhaps that's because it's the new emergent talent that brings in fresh ideas, recent experiences and an intense enthusiasm. It seems our age-old statements of human nature hold true - the children really are our future. They watch the world develop as they grow up and eventually find themselves best qualified to say what comes next. The coming years will prove me right or wrong as we watch the MMO genre evolve and see new ideas genesis.
It remains to be seen if the established development houses can continue to absorb most new talent as it emerges or if the rapid influx of young developers will cause more to go it alone. The number of start-up development studios and indie game projects is on the rise and there are more people than ever to fuel them. It's all of these different factors that have me genuinely excited for the future of the games industry and MMOs. MMOs have even gained acceptance in the entertainment industry and in family homes. I believe we truly are on the cusp of the next great gaming renaissance and it's an awesome time to be a fan of MMOs.