There's no doubt about it - playing online has become big this year. If not this year, in the past two months. Uncharted 2, Modern Warfare 2, Demon Souls, and Borderlands (which I have borrowed from a friend) have all become extremely popular in their own right, and it's all thanks to their online properties.
Maybe it's just me and the friends I've been with, but when all these titles came out on their release date, I've observed an increase in friends not only talking about the game, but when they will play online with each other, myself included. I think after Uncharted 2, I felt more connected online than I have with any other game that offered as such.
Sure, I'm not the typical Halo or Gears of War online player, and that's not because I don't have the console for it - I just earnestly didn't feel like I would offer much to the online community, let alone feel good about not doing well. And I never was into World of Warcraft either, which, in the long run, was probably for the best. And I'm sure these games handled online just as well as these titles. So what changed?
I think the ideal that good online multiplayer can only exist on Halo titles is wearing thin. Or maybe the concept of only playing deathmatch online where everyone is against everyone else is boring. I mean, no one wants to play online only to find time and time again that they just suck.
Nowadays, there's much more variety now into online capabilities, as Demon's Souls demonstrates with their unique way to communicate our past failed attempts to other online plyaers randomly. Or in Borderlands, where the seemingly-limitless gun stats produces countless hours of playtime to find the best weapon for the job. Maybe the opportunities to become great online has finally exceeded the need to have the highest ranking.
Either that, or I just have more friends that want to play online games with me.