As a gamer I went from very hardcore to semi-casual gamer.
I guess we all do, more or less. Families, kids and work put a huge constraint on play time. We all age and so time becomes more precious.
Moving to new games, we experienced the loss of time invested in virtual characters.
But for the younger players, (no offense intended), we aren't looking anymore for achievements in game but for FUN. Something to take us away from the reality and melt with others.
I understand the constraints designers have to solve but I think, the more it goes the more players will be looking for games they can play casually and still aim for top end content in a matter of decent time play.
With the MMO industry looking forward the console masses, I bet casual play will be the standard. Not only the learning curve will have to be shorter but also the time sinks.
Though, there will always be unhappy zergs rushing through content.
I think mixing casual gameplay with hardcore lead to big challenges and issues.
Maybe it's time to separate games in two makets as it's done for PVP and PVE oriented MMO.
Don't you think the market is ready, population wise, to have casual MMO in wich you don't have to invest insane amounts of time to enjoy "end content"?