Today the different online game services we play are generally provided by one publisher for each game. If there are different publishers for one game they have generally split up the market into region, each one covering a certain territory.
But why should it be that way? What if the game developers instead let any number of publishers that fulfilled some conditions run the same game? Say that Blizzard let some other publishers run World of Warcraft as well and there would perhaps be 5-6 publishers in Europe, all serving all or most of the continent.
In this case the publishers would have to make them more attractive to get more customers – different payment models, bundles with other games they publish, bundles with other media, family specials, guild specials etc. If a customer does not like the services (or lack thereof) of a publisher, but still want to play the game they would switch.
Now, the switch would not work out in practice unless the game provided support to migrate a character or account to a different publisher and games would need to be better to support integrating with social network and game portal environments. Neither is a bad thing, but there is little incentive to provide such support at the moment.
We have so far at least come to the point where the game developer and the online game publisher are different companies in a number of cases. But so far each game publisher has pretty much had a monopoly on providing the game access. Markets have been more open or are opening up in a number of other service areas, why not online games?