Recently, Raph Koster has been talking a lot about the "shift to multiplayer". His most recent article about that is here. Usually, I'd just stick my commentary in his comments section, but his blog's popularity has at last caught up to his actual popularity, so his comments section is officially too crowded for a post of this length.
Raph is right about this. There's a lot of different kinds of multiplayer, and the basic truth is that games are going to involve a lot more people. Sure, they'll always be a sluggish niche in the back for people who like to play alone, but even those people will find they have a community around their game, whether it is FFXIX or Solitaire of the Future.
We're not talking about being forced to participate, here. We're simply talking about the capability. It's going to become universal. Why?
Now, some people don't consider forum chatter "content". I do. If it takes your player's time up and interests them, it is content - at least, for somebody. Whether you're Morrowind or World of Warcraft, the main thing your community does is create content!
Having a community linked to the game is saying, "My artists spent eight hundred hours to make eighty hours of content by creating levels five through nine. My programmers spent eighty hours making eight hundred hours of content by letting all our fans talk to each other." Which is more efficient? A 10-1 ratio, or a 1-10 ratio?
Of course, I'm just making the numbers up, here. They are really much more in favor of player content and communities, since creating an eighty hour game in eight hundred hours is not likely. Seriously, communities - or player content of any kind - is dramatically more efficient and versatile than developer content!
People are starting to pick up on this, including Raph. He gives his vision of the future. I don't think it's strong enough. Take everything he says, and give it a twist to take it two steps forward and a step to the side.
For example, "store retailers in trouble" is a dramatic understatement. Oh, wow, is it an understatement. The early adopters have already abandoned store retailers for anything other than used games and games they've got to have right now. Look at a retailer's selling cycle: game comes out. It gets bought for a week. After that, nobody else buys it much (and it's getting worse). Do you really think that everyone who wanted the game got it in that first week? Isn't it slightly more likely that they're just stealing it?
Aside from the GameCube, even the console games are frequently stolen! With computer games, it's even worse.
MMORPGs are great because even if they are stolen, the thief still has to pay the monthly fee. The same with STEAM, for all its other faults. These are the systems of the future. And these systems write out store distribution altogether (or will, in a few years).
Another example, "playing single player games in multiplayer space" is also true, and also a misstatement. Because those single-player games are going to be, by and large, made by people in the multiplayer game. They might be devs, or paid level designers... but they're also probably volunteers and fans. The "game" you "buy" from the "developers" is really a multiplayer world you lease from tool programmers. Inside that game, you'll probably find games you have to buy from developers.
I could go on for pages... I have gone on for pages. Anyhow: yeah, multiplayer. It's gonna be everywhere. Haven't you noticed that it's more fun to play a game when you and your friends can chat about it?