If you want to see the future of your business, take a look at what's going on in the online mulitplayer gaming industry. My hero in this context is Will Wright, creator of SimCity and the Sims--now in its 6th year of spawning and increasingly vibrant customer community and ecosystem. (Sims even has a French stamp in its honor!)
Having watched customers create characters, pets, houses, cities, furniture, objects, etc. in the Sims, Will quickly realized that the next generation of online games could be even-more customer-driven. Coupling that experience with the harsh reality that the complexity and cost of designing online games is escalating out of control, Wright and a small team of crack-game developers have taken a completely different tack in creating Wright's next blockbuster game, code-named Spore. Here's the seminal article by Dave "Fargo" Kosak that describes what Will Wright and his cohorts are up to.
GameSpy: Will Wright Presents Spore... and a New Way to Think About Games It's a "MUST READ!"...
Then, this week, another article reinforced this point. In Tomorrow's Games, Designed by Players as They Play , CNet's John Borland describes similar presentations by Will Wright and by XBox team head, J. Allard at the Entertainment Gathering Conference taking place in LA this week.
In this illustration from Spore, the characters you create inherit their behavior from the behavior of the components you snap together. In this case, both tails and mouths can be used to grasp and manipulate objects.
Based on the amount of buzz Spore is already receiving a year before its launch, it's bound to change the way that multiplayer games are designed and produced. Customers/gamers will create the characters, behavior, vehicles, civilizations and worlds for the games they play!