Alice -- apparently the world's fastest typist -- has posted an amazing account of GDC's "Game Developers Rant." It is quite a read and includes some great comments on "piracy," including Greg Costikyan's sarcastic "[t]he world is not designed in such a way that money inherently funnels its way into your wallet!?"
However, it isn't anything that hasn't been said before: publishers are risk averse, games are getting more expensive, we're all going to be outsourced to Bangalore, nobody cares, and there is a need for alternative distribution channels.
In 2000 I left THQ to go work on Second Life at Linden Lab. While we have since started to learn that collaborative digital worlds have the potential for helping those with disabilities, driving innovation, and building phenomenal communities, none of those reasons had anything to do with me leaving THQ. I left because I wanted to create technology that would let everyone make games. SL isn't there yet, but events like the Tringo deal remind me that we are the way.
However, I think that the history of SL/Linden Lab acts as another response to the rant session. If you don't like publishers or Wal-Mart, then don't use them. While the cost of AAA titles has skyrocketed -- Greg's estimate of $20M is now on the low end -- the options for making and distributing games have never been better.
Read on for six ways to make games without EA.
First, you have the personal computer. Everyone has one, they are all connected to the internet, and anyone can get tools to develop on them for free. You don't want to deal with Sony's and have a burning desire to build a game? Just go do it! There are even great, cheap engines available for you to play with.
Second, you have the mod community. Don't want to do the grunt work? Do a mod or total conversion of a Quake, Doom, Half-Life, Unreal, or any of the other great mod-friendly games out there. Again, no approval process needed, free development tools, an installed base, and even communities to help connect your mod to players.
Third, you have web games. Yes, Flash costs a little bit of money, but it's only a few hundred dollars. Once again, you have all the advantages of the web and nobody telling you what to make.
Fourth, there are the many mobile options, from Palm to phones. Sure, dealing with the dozens (hundreds?) of SKUs is a pain, but it you have a zillions phones out there and plenty of web sites looking for games.
Fifth, use the web to create something new. I bet that if the web had existed a few years earlier, Richard Garfield might have built something very different. Board games are experiencing something of a renaissance because buyers and sellers have so many new ways to come together. Go out and challenge Cheap Ass Games with downloadable, tradable PDF-based games!
Finally, you have Second Life. Tringo crossed over to the real world and it certainly isn't the only fun game within SL. Plus, you have a community of artists and programmers, places to advertise for help, and plenty of resources to help you. Plus, easy distribution and billing.
So, much like what we talk about at the Austin Game Initiative's "Breaking In" conferences, if you want to make games, MAKE GAMES! There has never been an easier time to make games. The answer is not to bitch about EA not wanting to hand you millions of dollars -- to repeat Greg's quote: "[t]he world is not designed in such a way that money inherently funnels its way into your wallet!?"
It isn't going to be easy. It isn't guaranteed to make you a millionaire -- or even a thousandaire -- but you can blaze your own trail in this industry.
[EDIT: Added the next line after posting]
In my opinion, there has never been a better time to make games.