Though the price tags of blockbuster video game titles have been steadily rising, the barriers to entry for small game developers have never been lower.

Self-publishing through Apple's iTunes App Store as well as through Microsoft's Xbox Live allows entrepreneurs and code geeks with a solid idea to elbow their way into this highly competitive field. "This is the best time to be a small garage shop or a mom-and-pop shop of just a few developers," says David Riley, who specializes in video games and entertainment at the market research firm NPD Group. "They don't need to sit down in front of a venture capitalist and sweat blood" anymore.

The $44 billion market has also been thriving because of the influx of nontraditional gamers such as baby boomers, women, and young children. 

By the numbers:

Percentage of gamers who are women, according to IBISWorld: 40

Expected annual total video-game industry revenue growth through 2014: 11 percent

Total video game industry revenue, according to IBISWorld: $44 billion