Google have stepped up their efforts to combat gaming and the focus of their attention, is on "bad" links. That doesn't mean "good" links have become more important; it means it has become more important that your links are good, which is a major difference. Link importance has been going down for a while now and it is unlikely this will change any time soon.
From Google's publications in the form of guidelines, blogs etc. it is very clear what their aim is: further reduction of artificial influence of serps.
This is done is done in 3 ways:
further improvement of algorithms to recognise high quality sites,
further improvement of filtering out blackhat,
manual intervention against sites that violate Google's guidelines.
The latter is done both by actively penalising sites using blackhat, and also against sites abetting blackhat e.g. selling links.