"If MMOs were invented today, does anyone really think they'd set out their stall by asking for a hefty payment up front before you could even see the product, then demand another $15 a month just to keep using the thing you'd payed for? How did that ever work?
Well, it worked for a while because, as Wilhelm says, there was an Implied Social Contract, and, crucially, because the producers and consumers all came from the same culture. That lasted as long as it took for the word to get out that there was serious money to be made. Until WoW, in other words. Which, of course, charges a subscription. Because it can.
That brought in people whose dream was making money, not making worlds. They all tried to ape it and most of them ended up looking like monkeys. What works for WoW hasn't worked for anyone else because no-one really knows why it works for WoW. It shouldn't. It just does.
So here we are, we old-timers, leaning on our fences looking out at the tarmac being laid across the prairie all around us and wondering where the wonder went."Several years ago I struggled with being dissatisfied with where MMORPGs were going -- World of Warcraft was my first MMORPG, but I had embraced the ideal and concept of a 'virtual world' and wanted to see that ideal grown and built on, rather than the slew of WoW-clones released in its wake. I played several older games during this period (Horizons and Ryzom) just in time to see both go bankrupt and be largely abandoned to 'life support' status. This made me very discouraged. Games that seemed to want to be worlds were losing, while 'game-y' WoW clones kept coming (and WoW itself chipped away at it's 'World' as well).
Toward the end of WotLK, I found I was mostly unhappy both with where WoW and most other 'real' (sub-based) MMORPGs were. I took a long break from blogging and became a tourist of F2P games, which I once scorned. And I found many fun, creative games in places I would never have given the slightest chance to before because of their lack of 'worldiness' and small scope. Along the way, I think my expectations normalized and I realized that those dreamy days of the past where people imagined a massive living, breathing, fantasy world as the future of MMORPGs were gone. That was not the future of the genre -- the future was going to be something else, something more 'game-y', and if I wanted to keep playing MMOs I'd have to accept that fact and learn to love them firstly as games, and not worlds.
For some MMO oldtimers (many of whom's MMORPG histories are far older than mine), the future will be bleak. The new games will not offer anything they want, and if their older 'home' games die so will their desire to play MMOs. But I also think many of us will end up adapting our expectations, and learning to love the games we have instead of always wishing they were something else.
Related Reading: Every Game is a 3-Monther