I wrote this as a response to a thread over at Ten Ton Hammer:
From an article written by Ten Ton Hammer's Garrett Fuller, it's a great read, check it out! I thought I'd bring it over to MMORPG.com and try and stimulate a discussion.
The biggest change I have seen is the shift from single player to multi-player, and MMOs have been on the forefront of that change.
Games of all genres are now released with multiplayer, co-op modes, online content, etc. We now have the new Xbox live, the Playstation Online network, and so forth.
This trend has affected a lot more then gaming with social networks like Myspace, YouTube, Wikkis... the list goes on and on.
What does this have to do with MMORPGS? Well I think players are expecting a lot more interaction. WoW was designed to give you a lot of solo playability, and to slowly wean you towards group play and eventually massive group play. It was the perfect learning curve.
Now that multiplayer and cooperation/competition have become the norm across all gaming genres, MMO players expect a lot more group content, more interaction with others (be it in PvE cooperatively or competitively in PvP).
This is why I think we see a lot of the new concepts that games like Warhammer are bringing to the table. Living guilds, public quests, a focus on teamwork and "belonging" to something that we see in the RvR campaign. Sure, they are making a lot of content solo-friendly for the late adapters, but more and more they are focusing on the multiplayer elements of the massively-Multiplayer-online name sake.
As we all become more social online across many different mediums, we expect our games to give us more options to be social, be it cooperatively or competitively. The renewed interest and focus on PvP in MMOs is due to this multiplayer movement that really started with online FPS games. We expect buddy lists and belonging in organizations and social groups in everything we do online now, so we see an increased focus on group content and teamwork in our MMOs.
I think this trend will continue until solo-play while online is really only a memory. Developers will continue to invent new ways of bringing us together, to either help each other or kill one another until it becomes so integrated in our minds that the very thought of single-player becomes boring and obsolete.