Four years ago you had to be working on 30 million dollar projects and developing for the PS2 or the Xbox. Since then a quiet revolution has occurred. Today there are a myriad of platforms with millions of users which are easy (read "low budget") to develop for.
These new distribution methods lower the barrier to entry to being a game developer, which in turn increase the amount of content put out and ups people's willingness to take risks. This leads to innovation.
The innovation we see occurring on platforms like the iPhone, Facebook, Xbox Live, PSN, DSiWare, Steam, Browser Based Games and so on will have a greater effect on the future of games than all the 30 million dollar Halo clones being put out today.
We will always be limited by the technology available to us, but we have finally achieved a very important balancing point...
Since the inception of video gaming the visuals presented by games have been a limiting factor. They pigeonholed games as children's entertainment (because we seem to relegate the requirement of imagination to children) and restricted what experiences could be delivered in this medium.
But today we have simultaneous ended up at a point where the quality of game visuals is high enough to be respectable and where, from a business perspective, the most bang for your buck is no longer in searching for the next graphical plateau. This means that more money will flow to areas like R&D, Design, Writing, Sound, and Music.
As limited as we are by technology we are even more limited by our own capacity to use that technology. In the last 10 years game development has gone from an impenetrable wall of cryptic recondite arcana to something... a bit more approachable.
We're still not the point where making games is as easy as picking up a camcorder and hitting the on switch but I've seen eight year olds remake asteroids and college kids turn out next-gen experiences.
We're entering a period where the tools available to us will drastically reduce the cost of making marketable experiences and exponentially decrease the expertise required to make such. This of course means a lot more terrible products, but it also means more independence and a larger number of great works.
Without any one of the above factors we wouldn't be in the unique position we are in today, but this confluence provides us with something incredible:
1. Game schools mean more qualified developers are being produced and that these developers are encouraged to innovate.
2. Lower cost platforms makes experimentation economically viable.
3. Improved tools lower production costs while allowing for a greater degree of amateur and "off the grid" development.
4. Widening demographics demand yet undiscovered game types.
5. The first generation to grow up with home consoles is now in a position to fiscally incentivize the creation of new game types. They are also motivated to help games be viewed as a legitimate medium.
6. Graphical fidelity is no longer the main driver for development budget.
So what does add up to?