What it is: The next wave of user-generated content? Perhaps. Create-your-own-game services are just another choice in the roster of media consumers can create and share on the internet, along with video, photos and music. And in the past year, a number of services and sites that let users make their own video games have cropped up -- and some don't require users to know an ounce of code.
One is Games Factory 2, which recently made the pages of Wired as a must-have item. The software comes with all the heroes, monsters and objects needed for games, plus sound and music, and users can simply click and drag those into a field and add actions they should perform. Last August, Microsoft launched similar technology to let users create games for Windows and Xbox. While this is a simplified version of what professional game developers use, it is not for the faint of heart. Soon, gamers are expected to be able to sell their creations through the Xbox Live Arcade.
The cost: Microsoft's XNA Game Studio is free to create games for Windows but requires a $99 annual subscription to its "Creators Club Online" to make games for Xbox 360. Games Factory 2 will set you back about $60.
How to get them: With Microsoft's version, users download a free computer program with a simplified version of the tools professional video-game creators use. Games Factory is a boxed software set.
The marketing angle: Marketers are already big into gaming -- think about Burger King's success selling its own branded video games, starring the King, at restaurants. And marketers have also embraced letting consumers create their own video commercials, using a company's visual assets. Could these phenomena merge? Absolutely. It would be natural for companies to let consumers play around with those assets to create games.